Lectures, listening skills, and note-taking

Whether you’re in a first-year class with 200 others, or a cosy, intimate third-year lecture featuring you and 15 classmates, your listening and note-taking skills are crucial for success....by Romney Adams.

Doodles on a notepad

Nothing is worse than getting to the end of the year and finding stuff like this in place of notes =>

Entertaining? Yes. Useful? ...not so much. Here’s our quick guide to surviving in the lecture theatre.

Sit down, shu-- ... be quiet

While of course, you are welcome to ask questions in lectures, your primary concern is to listen, and take notes. Talking is an obvious distraction, not only to yourself, but also to your neighbours - you’d be surprised at how far two whispering voices can travel in a lecture theatre!

Mary and Lucas had this huge fight, but then....Listen up, and take notes

Generally speaking, your lecturers will make their slides available to you, before or after class. So, you shouldn’t think of note-taking as simply copying down what your lecturer has on their slides - chances are these will be given to you, so writing their content down will simply be a waste of time.

What’s better is to listen out for important pieces of information you can use to strengthen the content of the lecture slides. If you’ve been given the slides beforehand (check Moodle!), you can print them off, and annotate them in-class.

It’s not necessary to write down everything your lecturer has to say - you can usually tell simply by the lecturer’s tone of voice, emphasis, or even body language, as to whether the information you’re about to receive is of particular importance.

Tablets and laptops are great to bring to class, but, as we all know, they can be incredibly distracting. Consider going back to Classical times and just bring pen and paper - you won’t find yourself scrolling through StalkerSpace, and any doodling you do may actually help improve your concentration!


When using Allocate+ to submit your preferences, you may have noticed the lecture component of your classes are sometimes referred to as ‘seminars’, or ‘workshops’. These still follow the basic principles of a lecture, however greater participation is encouraged - it may even form some of your overall mark for the unit. Participation does not simply mean being present - you’ll be expected to engage with the teaching staff and ask questions - another good reason to listen to what’s being said!

What if I can’t make it?

The life of a student is busy, and sometimes, due to seen or unforeseen circumstances, it’s not always possible to attend your lectures. If this is the case, don’t worry! Many lectures are captured and stored for your viewing pleasure on MULO. This is also a great source for exam revision at the end of semester.

If your lectures aren’t recorded, things are a little trickier - but not impossible. Teaching staff are usually understanding if you have a good reason for not being able to attend, and may be able to email a copy of the slides to you - it goes without saying that the after-effects of partying are not considered to be ‘good reason’! You can also ask your lecturer if you can have a quick consultation/appointment with them, to catch up on anything important you may have missed. If you know you’re going to miss a class, you can also ask friends to take notes for you - it helps if you shout them coffee or a pint in return, to show your appreciation.

Do you have any tips or tricks for listening and note-taking in lectures? Or perhaps a suggestion of how not to behave? Comment below!

[Illustrations created by Romney Adams]
Share on Google Plus

About Rosemary Miller

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.


Post a Comment