How to get the most out of lectures

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The Independent Online

Advice on everything from note taking to sitting comfortably


If you turn up at a lecture and haven’t got the foggiest idea what it’s going to be about, you’ll be playing catch-up for the next hour. Find out what’s going to be covered and read around it first, then you can relax and get the expert’s opinion on the subject.


Check and double check you’ve got everything you need: pens, paper, books and anything else that will come in handy. Don’t forget to think ahead if you’ve got more than one lecture in the day.


If you have got a few lectures in the space of a day then have a bottle of water and a sandwich with you; you’ll definitely be distracted if your stomach starts gurgling at you.


Sitting at the back of the lecture hall and catching 40 winks will make it tricky to take anything in. Turn your mobile off, ignore your mates and listen to what’s being said. You never know, you might actually enjoy it.

Practise writing

Not quite as silly as it sounds: if there are long words that you’re having to write down a number of times, work out your own code or shorthand for them beforehand to save you a bit of time.

Take clear notes

While that might sound fairly obvious, bear in mind that any squiggles you jot down during the lecture might seem perfectly understandable at the time, but read more like a foreign language when you try to read them back later.

Write up your notes

Have a look at and amend your notes as soon as you can after your lecture; that way they’re more likely to register when you come to revise or write an essay


Obviously not during the lecture, but afterwards with your coursemates. A cup of coffee and a chat will help all of you get your heads around the subject that you’ve just been hearing about.

Ask the question

If something comes up in a lecture that you really don’t understand, don’t think twice about talking to the lecturer afterwards – or e-mailing them later if you can’t get hold of them – and asking for further explanation; that’s what they’re there for.

Take a cushion

Optional this one, but can be useful if you’re sitting on hard, wooden benches. Failing that, see if you can buy some padded pants!