The tutorial system and what to expect from a tutorial

What is a tutorial?

Tutorials are an unfamiliar concept for most people starting a degree at Oxford. This form of personalised learning is one of the unique aspects of doing a degree here. A tutorial is an hourly weekly meeting with a tutor and one or two other students. At the meeting, you will discuss ideas, concepts and debates that are related to the reading you were set for the week. You will be asked to prepare a piece of independent written work for the tutorial which is related to the topic of the week. At the end of the tutorial, your tutor will set you a new piece of work for the week.

The logistical aspects of this process, such as being assigned a tutor, are the responsibilities of the college and the tutor.

What is a tutor and what are their responsibilities?

For every course offered by Christ Church, there is an academic who has an expertise in your area of study and is producing cutting-edge research in their field. These researchers, who range from Junior Research Fellows to Professors, will be your tutor. The tutor will lead the conversations, set the reading list and assign written work, as well as give feedback on your work and track your academic progress. To find out who is the tutor for your subject at Christ Church, as well as their specialisation, please click here and follow the link to your course.

What are the benefits of taking part in tutorials?

There are many benefits to the tutorial system! It is a place where you can exchange ideas, get different perspectives, test new arguments and gain valuable constructive criticism to push your thinking further. Sharing your views in this way is academically demanding. However, by expressing your ideas, you will develop an ability to think for yourself and build the confidence to voice your own opinions.

You will have an essay per week for your tutorial. By regularly working towards tight deadlines, you will hone in your ability to find resources, plan and write a well-argued essay in a short space of time. The constructive feedback you receive from your tutors will sharpen your ability to write an argumentative essay with precision.

Whether you choose to do postgraduate study or move into the world of work, the ability to work to a deadline, communicate an argument both in writing and verbally as well as confidently offer your own ideas are skills that are universally sought.

How is a tutorial different from a seminar?

Other UK universities will have seminars instead of tutorials. Some Oxford courses may offer seminars alongside tutorials. A seminar is usually much bigger in size and, therefore, will allow you to hear more perspectives but may offer less personalised learning. For some, a learning experience with a big group is appealing. For others, being in a small group and getting one-to-one advice from a tutor is the best part of learning at Oxford.

How do I prepare for a tutorial?

Preparing for a tutorial will depend on the topic of the week. Generally, you will be required to read the books on the reading list so that you can actively engage in conversation. This is crucial, as your preparedness will determine how useful the tutorial is for you, the tutor and your peers. Attending lectures is also a crucial way of developing an understanding of the debates and concepts related to the topic at hand. To learn more about active reading and note-taking, click here.

What do I do if I am struggling with the workload?

You don’t have to struggle in silence. Your tutor will understand if you are unable to complete an essay or you need a break. If you need help, email your tutor and they can help you devise a plan that can support your learning whilst mitigating some of the pressures of work.

There are many people in Christ Church whom you can contact for welfare support, from our Welfare coordinator, Clare, to the welfare tutors, or our college counsellor, Karen. Click here to find out more about welfare support in Christ Church. If you are struggling with your mental health you can also contact the University’s Counselling Service.