It’s IA season at the University of Ghana (UG)! I can’t believe I’ve been attending classes at UG for nine weeks already. Time really does pass by pretty quickly, but it didn’t feel like that at the beginning of the school year. Because of how different the academic settings are between UG and UCLA, it took awhile for me to adjust. While UCLA runs on the quarter system (ten weeks + finals week), UG goes by semesters. Each semester is twelve weeks, not including additional two weeks for revision (dead week) and finals. So initially, studies at UG definitely felt a bit more laid back than UCLA. It even started to feel frustratingly slow, but that isn’t to say that it didn’t get more rigorous later on. Also, classes usually meet once a week for two hours whereas at UCLA, most classes meet twice or thrice a week for about an hour. This change was the biggest struggle I dealt with because I found it difficult to sit for that long listening to a lecturer. Nevertheless, I am still surviving.
In addition to these differences, IAs/midterms count for a lot less at UG than at UCLA. While midterms at UCLA usually count for 40-50% of your total grade, here, IA’s are only 30% of your total grade and final exams are worth a whopping 70%! IA’s can also take various formats, but are most commonly short answer/essay exams. For my “Regional Development” class, I took a ten-question exam requiring short answers. For my “Regional Geography of East Africa” IA, there were many more short answers and fill-in-the-blank questions as well as an essay question. However, I simply had to write a 4-5 pg essay for my “Gender and Politics” class, and do a group presentation/report for my “Transportation Studies” class. Going through my IA’s was a bit stressful , but if you’re going through IA’s/midterms too, don’t fret since I have five study tips for success!
- Interact with Ghanaian students – Each class has a designated “Class Rep” (short for representative) who is in charge of communicating between the professor and the class. Be friends with them! They know what’s going on in the class and sometimes are in charge of uploading documents/lecture slides to a class website. In addition, most classes and departments (e.g. Geography Class of 2017) have Whatsapp groups to announce important dates and share class resources.
- Join a study group – Piggybacking off of the previous tip, make a study group with Ghanaian students. Since the teaching style is a bit different, you’ll need some pointers on what to study or what the tests will be like, and the Ghanaian students will definitely know what’s up. In addition, some classes won’t provide specific readings, but instead have a book list. Unlike American universities, you need a lot more initiative as a lot of things aren’t already done for you (like picking out which sections to read from the book list). In the case of UG, you’ll have to go to the Balm Library or department library, find each book, and photocopy the pages you need. (Note: this is not always necessary.) Having a study group will make it a lot easier since you’ll be able to pool your resources together.
- Go to tutorial and office hours – If you have any questions or need any guidance with an assignment, see your TA or professor! Tutorials are discussion sections where TA’s review and discuss what was in lecture. Since you may not have class discussions, this is the time to ask questions and clarify or reinforce what you learned. Also, in my experience, professors at UG have always been glad to see students during their office hours, so feel free to ask them any questions about the material.
- Engage with the material – Research topics you learn in lecture on own. Again, self-initiative is very important at UG, and things aren’t always spoon-fed to you. Since some classes simply have a book list rather than specific readings, further research through the internet will help you get a better picture of what’s important about a given topic.
- STUDY! – Just because you’re in Ghana doesn’t mean that you should slack off. Make sure you make study guides or rewrite your notes for all your lectures. Ask the Class Rep, TAs, or professors what’ll be on the test or which topics are most important (this will most likely be announced in class). Read and study strategically by skimming through the table of contents or the assigned chapter, and then really concentrate on the main ideas that were mentioned in class. If you’re writing an essay, do your research, read the required readings, and make sure to make an outline collecting all necessary quotes and information before writing. It’ll save a lot of time.
You probably know most of these tips since they apply to studying everywhere in the world, but I hope these tips were helpful, especially if you are studying in Ghana too. Anyhow, good luck with your midterms/IA’s and I hope they aren’t too stressful!