How to Come Away With the Most from a Lecture

There is more to being a good student than getting good grades. A lot of students, especially in college, are finding that they never learned how to listen to a lecture properly and effectively. Whatever university you choose to attend, whatever side you fall on of the public vs private school education debate, you will inevitably find yourself at a lecture at some point during your educational career. And simply showing up at a professor’s lecture and pointing your face at the speaker’s general direction isn’t enough to fully understand and internalize the information which is being passed down.

Come test time, there may be many important things which existed in the lectures but not as fully in the textbooks. A student’s listening skills are a must, in order to safely navigate the college years.

Two important factors contribute to the successful comprehension of a lecture: listening effectively, and identifying important information. These two things are key in coming away with the most from a lecture, and they can help you a great deal in your future studies. Like I said, simply showing up to class is not enough.

Listening Effectively

A big part of listening has to do with your own status. It is best of you show up to a lecture having slept at least 8 hours during the previous night.

If homework or other reading/writing assignments were given by the professor before the lecture, come prepared. Don’t just gloss over the text a few minutes before the class. Show up on time, even a few minutes ahead of time, and make yourself ready physically and mentally. The reason that some lecturers hand out assignments before a class is that they wish to bring the class up to speed. During the lecture, the speaker will most likely refer and build on those texts, and their lecture will be understandable more so to those who have read the necessary papers, etc.


Take notes during the lecture. Being an active listener helps the information stay with you longer, and taking notes acts as a catalyst and retention agent. Once you connect a physical action to the listening, it become more ingrained in your memory.

Cell phones, classmates, and other distractions should be avoided. You are there to learn, not to text or gab with your friends. If you feel like those things may be in your way, turn off your cell (don’t just put it on vibrate) and pick a different place to sit.

Our attention span is at an all time low.

Our attention span is at an all time low.

Make sure to listen to the lecture in its entirety. Some parts may not be directly related to that which you are interested in learning – this is especially true to college freshmen, who have many non-major-related classes – but you will have to sit through and continue listening. It is worth it. Sometimes, a lecturer will repeat certain information that can be beneficial, or give time to ask questions during the different parts of the lecture. Being an active listener, getting involved in what is being said, is key in zeroing in on the important parts of the lecture.

Identifying Important Information

If you are lucky, the lecturer will be using something like power point software during his lecture, and will be underlining information in the form of bullet lists or points.

If there is no visual aid, you must be prepared to listen carefully and recognize certain patterns in the professor’s lecture. Each professor has a different way of teaching, and after a while you will be able to notice patterns in their methods, be it in history, math, or geography. Don’t be afraid of using the syllabus as a guide, since many times important information can be found there.

If certain words or technical terms are unclear to you, be sure to write them down for further investigation. It is recommended that you jot down any diagrams, illustrations, or examples of terms being used. It will help clarify the information, and shed light on other parts of the lecture.

If you work correctly, there will be no need for you to write down every word the lecturer breathes. You will be able to show up at a lecture, listen effectively, and take the right information away with you.

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