Level up, and get the most out of lectures!

You’ll have heard it countless times by now - “University is different from high school”. It’s true that you’ll need to tweak your practices to get the most out of your time here, but there are plenty of resources to get you on the right track, says Librarian Romney Adams.

Your listening and note-taking skills are incredibly useful, as they’re what you’ll rely on to take information away from your lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, labs, and other classes - so don’t underestimate their power!

Now, you might be thinking - “I know how to listen, and I know how to write notes” - of course you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But you can really supersize these skills, and use them to an even greater advantage.


Can I take this moment to emphasise the importance of writing neatly...or at least legibly? We’ve all experienced that moment of using your notes to revise, only to discover you can’t make sense of them. A common cause of this is writing at high speed, getting down every note from your lecturer’s slides, and every utterance and witty aside from their mouth.

Generally speaking, lecturers will make their slides available to you via Moodle, either shortly before or after a class - check Moodle for an announcement on this, or email your lecturer for clarification. If it’s before class, great! You’ve got a set of notes you can annotate. If it’s after class, that’s okay too - you at least know you don’t have to worry about noting everything down from the slides. Either way, you can focus on listening for important pieces of information your lecturer mentions verbally, to strengthen the content included in the lecture slides.

Remember, you don’t need to write down everything your lecturer mentions - you can usually tell what’s going to be useful simply by the lecturer’s tone of voice, emphasis, or even body language.

Tablets and laptops are a great solution to the ‘can’t-read-my-own-writing’ problem, but can prove an irresistible gateway to a plethora of other distractions. Consider going back to Classical times and just bring pen and paper - any doodling you do may actually help improve your concentration!


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.

It’s a different story for seminars, workshops, labs, and tutorials though, where greater participation is encouraged - and can even form a portion of your overall mark. 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?

Sometimes, things happen, and you can’t attend a lecture. However, there are still ways you can access the necessary material. 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 or tutor 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.

Don’t forget to have a look at the Library Class Booking System - we run a variety of skills classes throughout the semester! Search using keywords such as ‘note’ ‘skills’ ‘lecture’ ‘listen’ or ‘study’ to see if there are any relevant classes you can go along to! Or, chat to a Librarian or Learning Skills Adviser at your Library’s Research & Learning Point - check for opening times here.

Memes: 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.


  1. Rachel Chamberlain3 March 2016 at 12:04

    A great post Romney! This is very timely for students and will be very helpful