How to Get the Most Out of Lectures


My first year of university is over, exam results will soon be released and summer is finally here! Now that I have no work to do for four months, I’ve been looking back on how I organised myself in the past year. We all have different ways of revising, and mine is to condense my lecture notes and reading onto small index cards, and then read these cards over and over again. The problem during my first university exams was that I spent most of my time putting my notes in order, reading through them, condensing them and colour coding it all (I know, a bit over the top, but it makes it all clearer in my head) that I didn’t spend enough time actually revising what I needed to know.

Here are a few tips on how to do things differently:

  •   Condense your notes as you go

 Next academic year, I’m going to put the extra time in every evening to read over the notes I have taken during the day, do a bit of reading on the subject and research what I don’t understand, and then condense my notes for that lecture onto an index card. That way, when the revision periods for 2nd year comes along, I will have a pile of notes ready to learn, and I can spend my time memorising and reading instead of copying out a semester’s worth of scribbles!

  •       Keep your notes organised

In September, I’ll be moving all my notes into lever arch files, big enough to keep each year of notes inside. I’ll have 3, one for each subject, and use dividers to section them into the modules I’m taking. I think it will be useful to be able to look back on the previous year’s notes if I need to. I usually have half my notes on my computer and the other half on paper, depending on the lecture and how fast the lecturer talks! This works fine, as long as I can keep it all organised into folders on my computer and USB key. I take a pad and a plastic slip into uni with me everyday, so another thing I want to do is file the day’s notes away into the folders every evening, so I don’t lose anything.

  •       Do the required reading!

Something I didn’t do but should have done this year is actually do the reading for my seminars. We were told by some older students “oh, nobody really bothers to do the readings”, but honestly, if you don’t, there’s really no point going to the seminars at all. Every time I “forgot” to do the required reading, I sat entirely clueless in the seminar for an hour and struggled to make up an answer every time the lecturer questioned me. I know now that all it takes is half an hour of reading, maybe on the bus to uni or while eating lunch, and everything said in the lectures and seminars make so much more sense.

  • Don’t feel you have to write down everything!

If you do, you’ll end up with illegible notes, with sentences that stop halfway because you have hurried to catch up to an important point the lecturer has just made, and then forgot what he was saying before. You do have to listen carefully, note down any dates or facts, points that interest you and anything you think could be useful to use in an essay or for further research. If you’re lucky, the lecturer will use a detailed PowerPoint, and then instead of copying down what he has already written, you can note down the number of the slide and anything extra he/she has to say about the information on each slide. You can go back after the lecture and incorporate the notes from the slide into you own notes if you want to.

If you liked this post, there will be many more on the way once second year starts in September!

Let me know in the comments how you organise your work for university/ school/work 🙂



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