Top 5 Tips for Making the Most of Lectures and Seminars

Starting your first term at university can seem daunting and there will be a lot of information to take in. Lectures and seminars are your two biggest learning opportunities and make up the bulk of the contact time you’ll have at university. The rest of the time you’ll need to study independently to keep up with the required reading and research.

Making the most of this time will ensure you can really focus on studying away from the lecture room, rather than trying to catch up on what was said.

Here are our top five tips for making the most of lectures and seminars:

Buy a Dictaphone

This might seem strange at first but you’ll be surprised at how many of your classmates are also recording lectures, and sometimes seminars.

Recording the sessions allows you to focus on making clear notes of the key points, rather than trying to scrawl down everything the lecturer says. The recordings will also come in handy when you’re trying to revise and can’t remember that amazing way the lecturer explained a subject or topic.

Do the suggested reading before the lecture or seminar

You’ll find it so much easier to follow what’s being said if you’ve done the suggested reading in advance of the lecture or seminar. This could be hand-outs, notes, or suggested texts put together by the lecturer.

Use this time to highlight key points, topics, themes, unfamiliar technical terms, or things you’d like to have explained in more depth so you can actively participate in the seminar sessions.

Colour code your lecture notes

Notes are meaningless if they’re just random jibberish on the page. Use techniques such as colour coding to group notes into topics, themes, or subjects so that they make sense to you when you read them back.

You can also use highlighters, underline words or phrases, and use post-it notes to draw attention to things that will be important later.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Seminars are usually the time for asking questions, so if there’s something you need clarifying in the lecture, make a note to remind yourself to ask during the seminar session.

Don’t be worried that asking questions will make you seem stupid. Chances are other people will want to ask the same thing and the whole point of university is learning new things. They don’t expect you to have all the answers as soon as you walk through the door.

Summarise the main points at the end of each session

Each the end of a lecture or seminar, don’t close your notebook and forget all about what you’ve just learnt. Find a way to summarise what you’ve just learnt to make it clear in your head.

This could be bullet points, a few paragraphs, a spider diagram, or any other technique that works for you. You’ll find it easier to refer to this when you’re revising later on.