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First time: how to get the most from a lecture

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Top tips for getting the most from your time inside the lecture hall

It’s nice and warm, you’ve been sitting still for a while and it’s so tempting to go to sleep, but don’t. Lectures are your biggest clue to what your lecturer is looking for in an exam paper or essay – time to sit up and pay attention.

If you’ve only ever learnt in a classroom …

Lectures will take a bit of getting used to. For a start there are more people, lots more people. And the lecturer isn’t trying their best to get your attention, it’ll be up to you to find ways to stay engaged.

Take a handout

Most lecturers give handouts of their lecture notes, so make sure you get your hands on one. It’ll help you when it comes time to revise or write an essay. Date it and file it when you get home so that you can find it if you ever need it again.

Take notes

It might not be necessary to write everything down. If the lecturer has given you a handout, follow it through as they speak – and scribble anything down that they say which isn’t already included on it. This can save you rewriting the handout yourself and help you to concentrate on what’s being said.

If there isn’t a handout, then don’t try to get everything down. Take down key points, headings and lists of references for further study. If you find it particularly difficult to keep up with the lecturer, you could use a recording device to record the lecturer and take it down at your own leisure later, or you might find it easier to record your notes on a laptop or handheld, whatever works for you.

Once the lecture has finished, make sure you don’t lose your notes – file them straight away for safe keeping.

Ask questions

Just because no one else has asked it doesn’t mean that they’re not all as confused as you are. Take the plunge, stick your hand up and ask a question – your lecturer will give you credit and your peers will thank you for asking for a bit more explanation.

Know yourself

If you know that you find it hard to concentrate in a lecture, don’t go out for an all night bender the evening before – you’ll just fall asleep, miss vital information and kick yourself for it later. If it helps, take in a drink of water to keep you feeling awake.

Keep an eye on the clock

If you’re one to feel snoozy, keep an eye on the clock and break the lecture down in your head to fifteen minute slots. First fifteen minutes over? You’re nearly there.

Ask for the powerpoint presentation

If they’re using an electronic powerpoint presentation, ask if they can email it round to the class – again this could save you time noting everything down.  

Note down the lecturer’s contact details

Often the lecturer will give their email address at the end of a session – note it down. This could come in handy if you have a question about an essay or a piece of work. It’s always worth a try.  

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