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Getting the most out of lectures

Teaching at university is a bit different to being in the classroom at school or college. Read on to find out what to expect from lectures, and what skills you need to make the most out of them.

Lectures are for large groups of students, which could be everyone in the same year or studying the same module on a course.

During a lecture, the lecturer stands at the front of the lecture theatre and talks through a specific topic. They may also have slide shows or other presentations.

This doesn’t mean that all you have to do in a lecture is sit there and listen, however. To make sure they don’t just go in one ear and out the other, you should do some work before and after as well.


  • Find out the topic of the lecture from your timetable and do some reading in advance. This will give you a clearer idea of what the lecturer will be talking about, and make it easier to follow.


  • Most lectures last for over an hour, so there’s a lot to remember. Many lecturers will give out handouts, but you’ll need to make your own notes as well. This will help you focus during the lecture, and give you something to jog your memory afterwards.
  • Don’t attempt to write down everything the lecturer says though. Always arrive before the lecture is due to start, and pick up any handouts first. That way you’ll know which things have already been summarised, so you don’t end up copying them out again. Then, during the lecture, you can concentrate on making notes when the lecturer goes into more detail about specific things.
  • Many students come up with their own shorthand style so they can get things down fast. This is fine – provided you can actually make sense of your own scribbles later!
  • Don’t worry too much if you miss a few things, since there will normally be an opportunity to ask the lecturer to quickly recap certain points at the end.
  • Finally, remember that everyone else is trying to concentrate as well. Don’t talk to your friends when the lecturer’s speaking – even if you’re asking them questions about the lecture itself. It’s much better to discuss it with them afterwards, when you can swap ideas without people telling you to ‘ssshhhhh!’ And whatever you do – don’t forget to turn off your mobile phone!


  • Taking great notes is no use if you just shove them away and forget about them. Re-read them when you get home and the lecture’s still fresh in your head, highlighting anything you need to do further reading on. It also helps if you type them up and file them so you can find them when you need to revise.

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