Many students will encounter some mathematics or statistics in the course of their studies. It’s not just ‘classical’ maths-related courses such as Physics, Mathematics or Engineering that require maths; many other courses (including Business, Arts, Health Science and Medicine courses) involve some mathematical or statistical content.

The jump from school to university mathematics can be difficult. You no longer have such close or immediate access to your teacher. Because of the number of students in the lecture hall, you may feel reluctant to ask questions. New concepts are explained at a faster speed than may have been the case in school. Students who have been out of formal education for some time may have forgotten the basics. If you start to fall behind, you may worry that difficulties with maths or statistics will prevent you from successfully completing your course.

What can you do to keep up?

Once you realise that university mathematics is different from school or pre-university mathematics, you will find that mathematics and statistics are not as hard as you first thought.

Here are five top tips for studying mathematics and statistics at university:

  1. Rewrite and organise your notes. After each lecture, dedicate some time to looking back over your class notes. Ask yourself if it is really necessary for you to copy everything written on the board – often your lecturer will provide detailed notes on Blackboard, which give you a chance to listen with concentration. Rewrite your class notes and your lecturer’s notes in your own words, note key concepts, create a sheet of important definitions or theorems, and so on. See our hand outs Top tips for note-taking and Top tips for note-making for some advice on taking and making notes of value.
  2. Work on exercises with classmates or friends. You and your classmates or friends may have understood different aspects of a topic, so between you, you can help each other to understand it all.
  3. Attend all of your tutorials: Tutorials and labs are an important supplement to lectures as they provide opportunities to review new concepts and to work through examples in detail. As tutorials tend to have a smaller number of students than lectures, it may be easier to ask questions in tutorials, which brings us to...
  4. Ask questions. The aim of tutorials is to revise and reinforce the information introduced in lectures, so your tutor will expect you to ask questions. Remember, if you have put the work in and still don’t understand a concept, you are most likely not alone with this. There is no such thing as a stupid question! If you find it difficult to speak up in lectures or tutorials, you can ask a tutor in SUMS on a one-to-one basis.
  5. Visit SUMS early and regularly. SUMS (Support for Undergraduate Maths and Statistics)is the mathematics and statistics support centre at NUI Galway. SUMS offers:
  • a free drop-in service for all undergraduate students: No booking is required – just walk in and seek help from a tutor whenever SUMS is open (see the website for opening hours). Tutors can offer additional support for any mathematical or statistical subject (or any mathematical area within another subject) for all undergraduate students.
  • an informal, friendly atmosphere
  • a team of friendly tutors who are skilled and experienced teachers
  • a comfortable space to study and learn (in addition to the drop-in service). This is open to all NUI Galway students studying maths and/or statistics, and is popular with students at all stages of their studies.

 Visit the SUMS website for information about location, opening hours, and more, and for additional maths and statistics resources. If you have any concerns about mathematics or statistics or queries about SUMS, please contact Kirsten Pfeiffer at

Supported by the NUI Galway Student Project Fund