Many new university students find it difficult to get the most out of their lectures at first. University learning has a very different setup to school learning, so it’s worth noting down a few tips in order to make sure that you can absorb as much information as possible.
RESEARCHING & PREPARING
The first rule for lectures: always be prepared. Have a quick scan of your handbook or lecture schedule to see what topics will be discussed, who will be speaking, and if there’s anything in particular you need to research beforehand.
Keeping one step ahead by packing your bag the night before is always a good idea. Check that you have everything you need: pens, paper, books, and some food or drink if you have a few lectures in one day – you definitely don’t want to be distracted by your gurgling stomach!
LISTENING & ABSORBING
Listening attentively is the key to getting everything you need from a lecture – and this, ultimately, is why you’re at university in the first place! By absorbing all of this information, you can form great ideas for your essays, establish your own opinions on subjects, and learn amazing things that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else.
Make sure you pick up on the most important points so that you are fully prepared for exams. Keep an ear out for the following clues:
- If the lecturer repeats something
- A series of arguments raised by the speaker
- Opening remarks and summaries made
TAKING CLEAR NOTES
This may sound obvious, but making sure that you have a clear set of notes is important. Any squiggles and little half-notes you make in the lecture probably won’t make any sense when it comes to revision time!
To ensure that your notes are unambiguous, create a key that shows you exactly what your own shorthand words mean. Spider diagrams, colour-coding, and meaningful abbreviations can also help you take notes quickly and efficiently.
Many students also use dictaphones, recording the lecturer word-for-word. This approach certainly makes sure that you can’t miss a thing!
DISCUSSING & DEBATING (POST-LECTURE)
Obviously, you shouldn’t start discussing things with your coursemates during a lecture! But it’s definitely a great idea to catch up with everyone afterwards and see if they interpreted any of the points differently to the way you did. You might be surprised how insightful this can be.
To help you further, jot down notes about topics you need to learn more about, or things you didn’t quite understand. Academics love the topics they teach, and will be happy to take your questions after the lecture or via email. The questions you ask will also help you when it comes to exam time.
REVIEWING & RETAINING INFORMATION
Take an initial look at your notes shortly after the lecture has finished, so that you’re clear on what the most significant topics and points were.
Enhance your notes by doing the following:
- Correct mistakes
- Highlight links between important topics
- Add extra details
- Note down questions you can email to the lecturer
By closely following these steps, you’ll greatly enhance your knowledge, which will help you massively during your exams and coursework.
By actively listening and taking notes, you can overcome lapses of concentration that lead to gaps in your knowledge. By using colours, diagrams, and abbreviations, you’ll make notes that are succinct yet helpful.
Feeling Left Behind
Lecturers sometimes speak too quickly for you to make properly detailed notes, and some subjects can be difficult to understand – but don’t worry. Even if you don’t understand everything first time round, you can talk to the lecturer afterwards. Remember: your tutors are there to help you, so never be hesitant about approaching them with any questions or queries you have.
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