Study tips

Educational methods

Contact moments

The education at Hasselt University consists of 2 key components:

  1. contact moments
  2. autonomous learning

Contact moments

Most programmes combine lectures and practical sessions, both on-campus and online. Attend all your lectures and practical sessions, even if they are not mandatory.

  • A professor teaches in front of a (large) group during a lecture. Lectures can be on campus or online. There can be (a lot of) interaction between professors and the students, depending on the group size and the setting.

    Tips during a(n) (online) lecture
    • take notes since the professor might teach subject matter that is not in the PowerPoint or the textbook
    • if you have questions about the subject matter: ask them

  • Practical sessions, also known as ‘work meetings’, ‘practica’ etc., are primarily organised in smaller groups. You will learn to apply and discuss your course material during practical sessions. The setting is informal, and the teacher expects active cooperation. You will look for solutions for given problems or exercises, and group discussions might occur. Students are encouraged to ask questions.

    Tip: prepare for your practical sessions
    If you have a practical session coming up, prepare for it.
    Check your Blackboard a few days in advance to know what your teacher expects.
    You might have to
    • prepare exercises
    • do a reading assignment
    • send in your questions

Autonomous learning

There’s more than attending lectures and practical sessions. Hasselt University has a unique approach to learning: guided by study instructions from the professors, you can study the subject matter more or less autonomously.

The following skills are indispensable to be successful in an educational system that includes autonomous learning:

  • Self-regulation

Since you have to take charge of your learning process, self-regulation is an essential skill in autonomous learning.

And here’s some good news: you can learn to self-regulate your learning!

Are you suffering from a lack of self-discipline?

  • Critical thinking

Reflect critically on what you are learning, on the information, ideas and arguments you hear and read.

Tips & tricks to apply critical thinking:

  • Academic writing

Academic writing is essential to your study at Hasselt University since you have to write academic papers for some of your courses, not to mention your master’s thesis.

Tips for academic writing:

  • Writing a paper takes time, so careful planning is essential. Don’t postpone the writing work until the last week before the deadline.
  • Make sure you know the exact objectives and evaluation criteria.
    Reread the assignment before you start.
  • Gather literature, e.g. scientific articles, via the university library (at campus or online). Read through the texts and research and select the main ideas.
    Create links between articles and create new ideas.
    And remember: It is essential to think critically about everything you read.
  • Beware of plagiarism. You can’t just copy-paste the work of other authors. If you do so, even accidentally, you plagiarise. In that case, the examination board will decide on your penalty, ranging from getting an adjusted grade to being excluded from the resit.
    So rephrase or synthesise other authors’ ideas and use references.

  • Teamwork

Some courses include group assignments, which means you need teamwork: you’ll work constructively with fellow students towards a common goal.
Your grade can be based on the product but also (partly) on the process (e.g. by peer assessment).

Tips on teamwork:

  • Make sure every team member understands the assignment ahead.
  • Write a detailed plan on how to complete the task.
  • Get to know your group members: what are their strengths?
  • Divide the different tasks among the group members, which saves time.
  • Set short-term deadlines and evaluate the individual work regularly in the group. Don’t be afraid to adjust the plan if needed.
  • Turn to your lecturer if you are having difficulties in your group.

Study method

How to optimise your study method?

So many textbooks and lectures … how to study it all!?

Tackle it step by step:

  1. Preview
  2. Attend the courses
  3. Review your notes
  4. Study
  5. Check

Check the steps of a study process (website) or read them below.


Start your study with a short orientation on the subject matter: read through the intertitles, the introduction or the conclusion and get a picture of what you will learn.

A preview of the study material takes little time and increases your concentration, insight and efficiency.

Attend the courses

Students who attend the courses have higher degrees. So go to your classes and take notes since the professor might teach subject matter that is not in the PowerPoint or the textbook.
Write down the key concepts on paper or on a laptop, whatever you prefer.

Online recorded lectures?
Use a similar approach as during on-campus lectures: write down the key points and valuable examples. Pause the recording if necessary, but be aware that you don’t have to write down everything (that would waste too much time).
Boredom can strike more than in a regular lecture, so stay active while listening, e.g. by taking notes, drawing a scheme or writing down your questions.

Review your notes

After the lecture: read through your notes: and look for gaps.

  • Have you written down all the essential information?
  • Did you miss out on something?
  • Is everything clear?


After the lectures, it's time to study.

This is what you do during autonomous learning:

  • Read the course material
    Most courses will provide a textbook, articles or a reader.
    The professor might not teach all the subject matter in the lectures, so read your literature carefully.
    Reading might take some time, so read the necessary chapters each week and don’t get behind.

To study a textbook efficiently: structure it. There are different ways to do so: you can annotate and highlight the text, schematise, or make an excessive table of content.
You can combine these strategies to make sure you fully understand the material.

  • Prepare for practice sessions
    If you have a practice session coming up, prepare for it.
    Check Blackboard to know what the teacher expects from you. Then, solve the exercises, do the reading assignments and send in your questions so you can get the most out of your practice sessions.
  • Study thoroughly
    When you study, ask yourself questions about the subject matter (e.g. why is this so? how does it work?) and try to answer them.
    Asking critical questions about the content and then trying to answer them yourself will deepen your insight.


  • Don’t take it too easy
    Do not think too early: ‘Yeah, I understand everything (more or less)’.
    You only learn deeply when you make yourself difficult.
    How do you do that? Check out:
  • Bring variation to your study method
    For instance, don’t read the same textbook all day, but vary by doing exercises or alternate subjects.


Check if you’re right on track:

  • Do you keep up with the tasks and reading week by week?
  • Do you fully understand the course material?
  • Can you solve new exercises or problems on your own?

Get help if you come across any problems!
You can contact:

  • Your teacher, with any subject-related question
  • Your study coach for guidance on how to study


Motivation is a key to study success

These tips can help you stay motivated:

  • Promise yourself little rewards
    Every time you’ve reached a goal, give yourself a small reward (e.g. (virtual) social contact, a fun break, going crazy on your favourite song, something tasty …
    → Find some inspiration for rewards (website)
  • Study together
    Seeing others study motivates you to do some study work as well.
    So try studying together in the library, at home, or schedule online sessions via video chat.

  • Look for inspiring quotes and put them on your walls or your computer desktop.
    Have a look at them when you feel your motivation dropping.

  • Maintain your productivity
    Tick off tasks from your to-do list and focus on how much you’ve done already.
    Check these 5 ways to study when you don’t feel like it (video, 13’)

Time management

Add structure to your day

45 hours a week, that’s the average amount of time you spend studying, writing essays, taking classes etc., if you take a full-time programme of 60 ECTS study points.

At Hasselt University, there is a certain amount of time for independent learning between your lectures. So even if you don’t have any classes scheduled, you still need to spend a lot of time studying autonomously, individually or in a group setting.
It is essential to manage your time effectively.

These tips and tricks will give you a head start!

Add structure to your day

A fixed daily schedule gives your days a basic structure, something to hold on to. It creates space in your head.
You can plan your study work, tasks and appointments around this structure and keep flexible to unexpected changes.

Some ideas on structuring your days:


Making a schedule makes you think about how you wish to spend your time. It helps you do what you want to do more effectively.

There are different ways to schedule or plan your studies.

  • The to-do list

In a to-do list, you write down some tasks for yourself that you want to complete.
You can make a to-do list per day or week.
If you opt for a weekly variant, mark your daily goals every morning.

Write down your to-do list on paper or in an online application.

Difficulties with prioritising your tasks?

Maybe working with a to-do list provides enough structure for you to start working and manage your time effectively.
Others might need more detailed planning, for example, a weekly schedule.

  • The weekly schedule

A weekly schedule gives you an overview of your entire week. It is a way to structure your tasks and organise your days effectively.

  • When do you want to start studying? What task will you be working on?
  • When is it time for relaxation? Which evening will you have time to watch Netflix?
    → it's all there!

Ready to make your weekly study plan?

Tips for building weekly schedules:

  • Make your (daily and weekly) goals workable.
    Set efficient goals via the SMART principle (infographic)
  • Involve your environment. Tell your housemates about your plans. That way, they won’t bother you when you’re studying and might motivate you to push through when things get complicated.
  • Keep some ‘buffer time’ in your schedule, and be ready for the unexpected. In ‘buffer time’, you don’t plan anything: no study, no fun stuff.
    If your planning goes well: the buffer time becomes extra free time.
    If your planning gets behind: no problem, you can use your buffer time to keep up.

Helpful apps for making weekly schedules:

Handy downloads:

Take breaks

Like your smartphone, your brain also needs a 'charging moment' now and then. Pausing energises your brain so you can continue studying efficiently.
A ‘good’ break gives you energy so you can keep going!

- The effect of taking breaks at a glance (infographic)
- the effect of taking breaks, illustrated by an example (website)

Things NOT to do during a break:

  • Staying behind your desk / your computer
  • Watching TV series or movies, losing yourself in social media (do these things after you have reached your daily target)
  • Keep repeating what you have learnt in your head
  • Thinking about what you’re about to-do

But what could you do then?

Things you can DO during a break:

  • Move
    e.g. go for a walk, ride your bike, do a workout, do yoga, do rope skipping
  • Do something that relaxes you
    e.g. take a shower, listen to music, call a friend
  • Meet others
    e.g. have a talk, lunch, walk together.
  • Go outside and get some air (leave and ventilate your room!)

Get some inspiration

Get rid of procrastination

Do you tend to postpone essential tasks and study work?
Do you visit procrastination island (image) regularly?

Autonomous learning education gives you a lot of freedom. That can lead to postponing study tasks, time and time again.

How can you beat procrastination?

There are various ways to tackle procrastination:

The Pomodoro technique helps you to start and keep studying with a fixed schedule:

Distance learning

Stay connected

Keep in touch with your programme, your tutors and fellow students.

  • it motivates you
  • it helps you process your learning and
  • you become part of the student community
  • Keep the same rhythm with a group of fellow students: study at the same time (possibly together via video chat) and then take a break at the same time
  • Agree with your housemates to take breaks together (e.g. four-hour break, meals, etc.)
  • Plan a (fixed) time to contact family members or friends
  • Meet these tools to stay in touch online (website)
  • If you have the choice of taking classes online or on campus, try to go to campus as much as possible

Study efficiently and effectively

  • Treat your online class just like an on-campus class
  • Bring variety to your study method.

Don't read the same textbook all day, but also make exercises, or alternate with another subject.

  • Want more study tips? Check out our e-module study method, the tips are useful for both on campus and online classes!

Manage your time

  • Keep structure in your day/week

At the times when you have an (online) class, you also do something for this subject. You don't procrastinate on this.

  • Don't spend more time than necessary on your online lessons

Listening to recorded lessons can take more time and energy than attending a physical lesson. Apply the Pomodoro technique:

  • 25 minutes of concentrated listening
  • 5 minutes of pausing

After 4 blocks, take a long break (and you may also have listened to your lesson).

  • Want more tips on study planning?

Get inspired by our e-module time management (website)

Monitor your concentration

Concentrating is not always easy at home.

These tips can help:

  • Study with your siblings, choose a study place or study online 'together' with friends. There are also online study buddies (check youtube)
  • Organise a "standard working day" for yourself. For example, study every day from 9 am to 5.30 pm. A certain rhythm will give you a grip and structure
  • The Pomodoro technique helps you stay focused:
  • blocks of 25 minutes of uninterrupted study time
  • followed by a short break of about five minutes

More info in this infographic of the Pomodoro technique, or watch this video to work smarter (3').

  • Inform your housemates and your friends of your daily schedule.

That way, no one will disturb you while studying, and your focus won't be interrupted.

Looking for more concentration tips?

Check out our e-module Focus (website).

Feed your motivation

Online group work

  • Find (new ways) to work together in groups
  • Share documents via e.g. google drive, so you can work on them at the same time
  • Agree clear deadlines by which (sub)tasks must be completed. Take into account deadlines for submission & feedback from the teacher
  • Agree for online meetings via video chat

Online evaluation

Read our study tips on how to prepare for exams

Stress management

Are you suffering from stress and anxiety?

Stress has a negative connotation for most people. It’s something you most likely want to avoid.
However, some stress isn’t bad at all. Challenges that cause a certain amount of stress - like studying abroad - can make you feel alive.
Moreover, stress can help you perform better because it can benefit your focus.

Though, if you experience too much stress, there are adverse effects.

There are many ways to manage your stress.

  • Change the cause of your stress, if you can

For example, if a dispute with a friend causes you great stress, makeup.

  • Change the way you perceive your stressful situation

For example: Instead of thinking, “I will never pass my course”, think: “I will do my best and see how it goes.”
Easier said than done, we know. It will take some rehearsing to get the hang of it, but these helpful thoughts will become more automatic if you keep repeating them.

  • Change the effect of stress on your mind and body

Try to find a way to relieve stress that works for you.
For example, relaxation exercises, walking in a forest, running, listening to music, talking to a friend  …

These exercises can help you relax:

Recognise that, considering the circumstances, it is normal to feel anxious and worried from time to time.


Of course, you worry from time to time about your studies, your family and your friends.

Are your worrying thoughts taking up too much time?
Try one of the following techniques to stop them:

  • Try to find some distraction

Watch a series or movie, read a book, (video)chat with your family, or go for a walk with a friend.

  • Put off your worries

Spend a particular moment every day worrying. If you notice you start worrying at any other time, say to yourself: “This is something to worry about in my time dedicated to worrying.”
You can write your worries down on a piece of paper so that you will remember them later.
When your worry time is there, you can worry about everything on your list for about 15 minutes. You can also write about them, e.g. in a diary.
When the 15 minutes are over, it’s time for some distraction (see above).

  • Realize that worrying isn’t helping you

It doesn’t lead to great insights but narrows your view and enlarges the situation.

  • More tips needed?

Find out what works best for you!


Finding your focus, how to get started?

In a new educational system, it might be challenging to keep your focus as an international student studying abroad or as a distance-learning student.

These strategies might help:

  • Learn more about concentration processes in your brain

When you know how your brain works, you know how to guide it.

  • Find your best study setting

Where is your focus at its best?
Try out different locations and find out where your concentration is at its best:

Is your attention best when you're alone or better while studying with other students - in real life or via webcam?

Is your focus best with or without music?

  • Organise your study space

A clean and well-organised study space enhances your concentration.

  • Get rid of all distractions

One of the biggest sources of distraction is digital media.

But how can you resist the tempting social media?

Make it easy on yourself:

  • Ventilate your study room

Open a window daily for at least 10 to 30 minutes to bring in some fresh air.
Sufficient oxygen is essential for your brain to function.

  • Pause

After a well-chosen break, you restore your concentration and focus.
Your brain needs occasional rest to keep performing.

Do some exercise during your break! Exercising stimulates your focus.

  • Stop multitasking while studying

Why? Because you can’t focus on 2 things at the same time. You really can’t!
So stop scrolling through your social feed or watching tv while studying.

  • Use the Pomodoro Technique

This technique helps you to ‘monotask’ and stay focused with a fixed schedule:

- blocks of 25 minutes of non-stop study time,
- followed by a short break of +/- 5 minutes.
→ More info via this infographic and this video (3')

  • Train your focus

It’s true: you can train your focus, just like you can train your muscles!

Did you know that practising meditation can lighten your focus?

  • Tell your family, friends, and roommates about your daily schedule

That way, no one will disturb you while you study and disrupt your focus.
Maybe they can even support you and help you with your plans.

  • Practice an active study approach

Don’t just read and reread your course material, DO something with it.

Study tip
Alternate between your subjects or tasks.
Alternation prevents boredom and keeps you alert.

  • Be aware of your ‘focus zone’

When there is enough arousal (stimulation, adrenaline, motivation), you are in your ‘focus zone’: your attention is at its best.

  • Eat healthily and hydrate

Put a bottle of water next to you while studying. Since your brain consists mainly of water, drinking enough water is essential to focus.

Avoid so-called ‘energy drinks’; they have adverse effects in the long term.

Healthy food like fibres, nuts, fruits and vegetables can contribute to a good focus.

  • How do other students concentrate?

A student testifies (3') how she stays focused.

Taking exams

How to prepare

It’s probably not the first time you must prepare for and take exams. 
You know how it’s done! 
But you might need to adapt your exam skills slightly to the Hasselt University way of taking exams. Check out how you can beat your exams!

Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Draw up a realistic revision schedule

A revision schedule helps you stay on track, keep an overview and calm your nerves.

You can build your study schedule in 3 steps:

  1. Get the information
    Check the date, time and place of your exams.
    You can find this information 4 weeks before the start of the examination period at MyTimetable.
    Write this information down in a schedule, e.g. Google Calendar or this monthly planner template.
  2. Count: how many days do you have for study?
    How many days are in your schedule between the last lecture and the first exam?
    Those are your revision days.
  3. Make a plan
    How many revision days do you need for each exam? Allocate the revision days over the exams you will take.
    Write on your schedule which days you will study for each exam.

Helpful tips for exam planning:

  • Inform others about your exam schedule
    Share your schedule with your housemates and set your occupied status on social media.
    This way, friends and family members do not disturb you.
  • Relax
    Take regular study breaks and relax. It is essential to charge your batteries now and then to keep going.
    Find out how and when to take breaks (website)
  • Study smart
    So much to study, so little time … what can you do?
    • Study the most critical parts by heart.
    • Focus on a deep understanding of the course material by:
  • Started too late? Are you left with too little time?
    Do you experience you’ve got too little time left to study all the subject matter thoroughly before the exam?
    Here are some suggestions on what to do:

How to make the best out of your exams

There are many different kinds of exams, but these guidelines work well for all exams:

  • Scan through the exam

Before you start answering the questions as a headless chicken:

  • Read the instructions (what is expected of you?)
  • Check how many questions there are
  • Calculate how much time you can spend on each question
  • Read carefully

Read both the instructions and the questions thoroughly. Don’t read what you think, but read what is asked of you.
Indicate keywords and split the questions into different parts to make sure you’ve read all aspects of the question.

  •  Use your scratch sheet

How can you use your scratch sheet?

  • Write down some core ideas for every question
  • Build up your answer and structure it
  • Try out solutions
  • Work out calculations

! Do not write your full answer in a draft to neatly rewrite on your exam form; you will be running out of time.

  • Add structure to your answer

Build up your solution in a well-thought structure:

  • Easy questions first

Don't dwell too long on a question if you don't know the answer immediately.
Skip the difficult questions and solve the most straightforward ones, so you have already earned those points.

  • Stay calm

When you feel the nerves taking over: close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths.
Find the most straightforward question and answer that one first, or write down a few key thoughts on your scratch paper.

  • Check yourself

At the end of each exam: keep some time for review.
Read through the entire exam:

  • Check whether you have answered all the questions
  • Reread not only your answers but also the questions. Make sure if you effectually responded to the question asked
  • Check whether your answer is clear and comprehensive
  • Are your calculations correct?
  • Correct your spelling mistakes

Avoid making ‘stupid’ mistakes on your exams (video, 5’)

Different types of exams and how to beat them

There are different types of exams and different types of questions. Check the evaluation type of your courses in the online study guide
Different exam questions require different approaches.
Find out more information and tips below.

  • Closed book exam

Most of your exams will probably be ‘closed book’ exams: you are not allowed to bring any resources with you on the exam. You have to rely on your memory and understanding of the course material to answer the questions on the exam.

  • Open book exam

On an open book exam, you can bring (some of) your course material to the exam. The professor will explain what you are allowed to bring with you.

  • Ensure your material is well-organised to find information easily during the exam. Use tabs, and make lists with keywords …

  • The questions on an open book exam are usually in-depth; the answers can’t be found literally in the book. Questions can include case studies and ask you to integrate information from different chapters of the course ... So make sure you understand the subject matter well, think of links, and overview the ‘big picture'.

  • Keep an eye on the clock!

You won’t have the time to look up everything in your books. So study well beforehand and manage your time wisely during the exam.

More tips?

Take-home exam?

A take-home exam is a variant of an open book exam you can make at your place. It typically consists of one or a few questions for which you get a lot of time.

  • Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are questions that need a complete answer.

There are different types of open questions:

  • Fill-in-the-blank-questions
  • Short-answer questions (those require a brief, precise answer)
  • Long-answer questions or essay questions (which require a long and well-structured answer)

For most open-ended questions, the teacher expects you to write comprehensive, well-structured answers that contain sentences, lists etc. You need to give new and deeper insights into the subject matter.
Depending on the question and the blank provided, the length of your answer may vary.

  • Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions are either:

  • Questions you can answer with “yes” or “no”, or “true" or “false". You might have to explain your answer.
  • Multiple-choice questions: You must find the correct answer between different options.
  • Sometimes, there is a correction for guessing, which means you will lose points if you choose the wrong answer. Read the exam instructions carefully.
    When correction for guessing is applied, it’s often better to leave questions you can’t solve blank.

Take note
Some study programmes use the online evaluation tool ‘DOCIMO’. In this tool, you’re not only asked to select the correct answer, but you must also indicate how confident you are about your answer (i.e. the degree of certainty). This system also applies correction for guessing, but an incorrect answer can still give you points. So always try to answer the question in DOCIMO.

  • Computational, problem-solving and case-based questions

In this kind of questions, you need to find a solution to new exercises, case studies ...

How to prepare?

✔ Make exercises and test exams (without looking for the solution first)

✔ Mix exercises from different chapters

✔ Make sure you have a good command of the theoretical concepts that can help you solve the exercises

✔ Making a formulary can provide an overview

! Do not expect the same exercises as in the practice sessions; you might get an unpleasant surprise. On the exam is tested whether you can go a step further and if you can solve new kinds of exercises.

  • Oral exam

You must explain your answers to the professor in an oral exam.
You might get some time to prepare your answers on paper.

Tips for tackling your oral exam (website)
How to prepare for an oral exam? (video, 12’)

Tips for oral exams WITH written preparation:

  • Limit yourself to a short, well-structured answering schedule with only the keywords. Avoid entire sentences (unless the professor asks otherwise)
  • Keep an eye on the time
  • Use your oral explanation to demonstrate that you have mastered the subject matter

Tips for your oral explanation:

Take care of your non-verbal communication:

  • Make a good first impression
  • Enter enthusiastically. That way, you come across as confident
  • Watch your body language: sit up straight and make eye contact with your examiner

Discover how your body language can help you during an oral exam (video, 9’)

Some tips for your verbal expression:

  • Take your time to answer
  • If you couldn’t prepare your answer: paraphrase the question to give yourself time to think about the question
  • Make links between the parts of the subject matter. Give examples
  • End your statement with a decision summarising your answer
  • Try not to be upset by the professor's facial expression or behaviour
  • Do not be put off by the additional questions. If necessary, ask for a further explanation of the question
  • If you don't know the answer, say you don't know

  • Permanent evaluation

Permanent evaluation can be a part of your evaluation.
It is a continuous assessment that typically consists of assignments (portfolio, interim tests, paper, reports, etc.) during the academic year.

  • Presentation 

An (oral) presentation can be a part of your evaluation. It can be taken individually or in a group.

Tips for a good presentation:

  • Ensure you understand what you can expect: check the instructions on Blackboard, the study guide or ask your professor or fellow students
  • Check the evaluation criteria (e.g. content, presentation skills)
  • Conduct research on your topic. Make sure you know what you are talking about
  • Decide on the format (e.g. How much time do you have to present? Do you want to use media?)
  • Stick to the main idea and build up your presentation logically
  • Rehearse. Have at least one test run in the mirror or with your family, friends or fellow students
  • Provide time to ask questions

  • Online exams

Do you have online exams?

  • Read all the guidelines carefully
  • How much time is foreseen?
    In which online environment will the exam take place: Blackboard, Toledo, Google Meet ...
  • Install the indicated browser and software and test it
  • Check before the exam: is your laptop sufficiently charged; are sound, headset and microphone working well; check network / WIFI …
  • Mimic an on-campus exam situation as much as possible: switch off your mobile phone, eliminate distractions, take pen and paper at hand, inform others ...
  • Follow the instructions accurately in case of electronic supervision
  • Pay attention to the available time during the exam
  • Do not panic if you have technical problems: notify the lecturer or the ‘help centre’ immediately, and take a screenshot of the screen …
  • Don’t forget to send or submit your online exam after completing it

  • Get all the information about your online exams with this checklist (website)

Not ideal conditions for taking your online exam at home?

Do you lack a trustable PC or a quiet place with a stable internet connection to take your online exam at home properly?

You can apply to take your online exam on-campus.
Find out how to apply for this facility to take your online exams on-campus (website).

The social services offer free loaner laptops for students who temporarily do not have a computer. You can find the application form in your electronic student file.

Make an appointment

Do you have questions about certain topics?

Make an appointment with your study coach.