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Getting the Most Out of Lectures*
1. Listen for verbal
signals and cues. Professors
give cognitive clues that indicate the structure and relevance of
for words that indicate:
Listen for emphasis.
Emphasized words and concepts are likely to appear on the exam.
Listen for ideas.
Good listeners listen for the central themes and concepts;
don’t get hung up on facts
Record written examples. Write down all examples or statistics the
professor writes down; he or she is making an effort to write them
because they are important.
Pay attention to organization. Consider the way the instructor
organizes the material.
If it seems unorganized to you; take some time after the lecture
to organize it yourself.
Clear organization leads to better understanding.
Ask for clarification.
you don’t understand a point, ask!
over the intimidation and fear of what people will think about your
many probably have the same question you do.
you are paying a lot for your education! Get your money’s worth!
III. Strategies for Taking Meaningful Notes
some questions to consider that may help you take better notes.
1. What is the purpose of the lectures in this course? Discerning the purpose
of the lectures will influence your approach to note taking.
2. What will be the relationship between the lectures and the exam? Will the exam cover the lectures or not? If so, organized note
taking is crucial.
3. What will be the nature of the exam? Knowing the nature of
the exam will influence what you record in your notes; your notes should
set you up for your exam prep review.
4. What is included in the course outline? There may be clues as
to what is important; learning objectives should be reviewed carefully.
5. What is covered in first lecture is key? The first lecture
may hint to what is most important in the course.
What is the TAC of the lecture?
the TAC can help you discern what is most important to record and will
provide some organization for your notes
7. What do you
know and what is new?
Take notes on what you don’t
information and concepts that are new and unfamiliar. You can save time
if you don’t write down what you are already familiar with.
Study your instructors.
Watching how the instructor interacts with his or her own
material can help you decipher between main ideas and supporting
1. Listen for verbal
voice, pauses, repetitions, slowing down, raising voice, lowering voice,
saying things like “I believe the following is important”
2. Note non-verbal cues
– writing on the board, eye contact, dramatic gestures (Note:
non-verbal cues can be ambiguous)
Listen for repeated points or
can indicate that something is very important and worth noting.
Watch for emphasized words and
These emphasized points will likely be on the exam.
Write down brief definitions and explanations of key terms for
later review (people,
dates, theories, and concepts)
Note illustrations or examples to explain a point.
If the professor is taking great effort to make sure you understand
and giving examples, it may suggest that the point in question is
the amount of time spent on a point.
This may suggest it is important.
changes in the style of the presentation.
Moving from lecture to discussion or questions may suggest the
point is important.
9. Pay attention to the beginning and end of a lecture.
Professors will often make key points upfront or as a review or
*Adapted from “Effective Listening in Lectures,” Student Learning Commons, Simon Fraser University.