10 Tips on how to get the best out of lectures

I’m not a fan of lectures. In fact, I find myself either daydreaming about Jason Statham stunts and Brock Lesnar Suplexes or relentlessly dozing off with saliva oozing from the sides of my mouth during lectures and getting occasionally startled from my sleep, jumping up like I’ve been tasered.

However, recently I came to the harsh realization that this detached attitude towards lectures has been the culprit behind my not-so-good performance. I decided to dig deeper and these are three fundamental facts about lectures that I discovered: they are inevitable, crucial and fun.

Lectures take a huge chunk of our time in college and besides their attendance by students being a requirement for graduation, sometimes we can’t do without them. For instance, when being introduced to a completely abstract unit, you’d better sit your bottom through that introduction lecture or else suffer throughout the semester looking for someone to explain just the basics.

But even more surprising, is that these lectures aren’t necessarily boring, they depend on your attitude. So you get to choose whether to make them interesting or not.

So today let’s see what actions we (I included) can undertake to ensure that we get the best out of these lectures. I did intensive research including asking top achievers and lecturers for advice and below is what I gathered.

1. Read before the lecture.

Having a rough idea about the lecture’s topics of discussion gives you the power to interact easily with the content. Imagine attending a quantum physics class with no prior knowledge. Before the lecturer mentions decoherence and theory of relativity, you might have already decided to drop out of college. Don’t wait for the lecture to learn new concepts. Research and equip yourself with basic knowledge.

2. Fuel up.

Attending a lecture on an empty stomach is like studying while your favorite program is on TV, you cannot concentrate. If you’re serious about understanding what the professor is teaching, don’t give your stomach a reason to be grumpy. Take a healthy and sustaining meal before the lecture.

In addition, carrying foods and snacks to the lecture room might work against you in terms of diverting your concentration. A bottle of water is perhaps the best nourishment you can take to class.

3. Sit strategically during lectures

Most guys think sitting at the back is cool and perceive that those who run for front seats try to ostentate their academic determination. While that isn’t necessarily true, research has proven that on average frontbenchers perform much better than backbenchers.

Sitting close to the professor forces you to be attentive and allows you to hear effectively. This, in turn, translates into enhanced interaction and better understanding. However, if you gain more while at the back, feel free to get a comfortable seat for yourself behind the class.

4. Surround yourself with better scholars.

As the saying goes, show me your friends and I will tell you who you are, even in class, you are an average of the people you seat with. Some students are known for being extra involved with distractions which is quite contagious. The lesson ends without you having any idea of what has been taught because your friend was constantly showing you funny memes on Instagram.

Sit next to people who are attentive and you will find yourself listening without any struggle. If you don’t understand a concept, you can ask and they might perhaps show you an easy way to comprehend the content. Also, don’t be deterred from fun friends, they make witty jokes and comments that can lighten the mood of the lecture now and then.

5. Have your reading materials ready.

Nothing can be done effectively without the right equipment. School work requires materials that make knowledge acquisition easy such as textbooks and handouts. As you listen intently to your professor, you can highlight on points stressed by the professor and later focus on them when studying.

6. Put away distractors.

In this digital age, gadgets have taken most of our lives and even encroached into our study time. Although they might be instrumental to our study, they sometimes pose a bigger threat to our learning. For instance, notifications from Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram among many others constantly take our minds away from the lecture. Consequently, we miss out on important details.

So here is what you can do; turn off your phone data and Wi-Fi, activate the silent mode and place it away from quick access. If you type your notes on a laptop, make sure the only tabs opened are related to what you are studying. Avoid connecting to free Internet. Other distractors to avoid include food as mention above and unrelated reading materials like novels and magazines.

7. Make listening, your very first priority.

Most people have never understood the unexpendable art of listening. This is because we indulge less in learning than into showing we know stuff. Get into that lecture with the notion that you are a student who wants to learn from your professor and listen keenly to the teachings as if it’s the first time you have come across them.

Digest the information and create your brain pathways of understanding. Pay attention to the structure of the content so that you can organize your memory. Pay attention to key contents such as lists, facts explanations, spelled out words and drawings. If the lecturer’s pace is quite fast, record the lecture with your phone or a Dictaphone and review it later at your own time and space

8. Take well-structured and brief notes.

Having listened carefully, you need to quickly jot down what your brain has processed. We have a tendency of forgetting up to 50 % of what we learn within the first 20 minutes. So, taking quick notes is very crucial to get the best out of the lecture. Note-taking is not that easy, it needs to be quick and precise.

For starters, you don’t have to write every single word the lecture dictates, only pick what cannot be left out. Develop your system of abbreviations to help you write faster. Structure your notes in an organized manner placing points on independent lines and highlight major ones. Finally, leave gaps whenever you need more clarification and examples. Such notes will be very easy to go through later when revising.

9. Ask questions.

As we grow, we tend to stop asking questions because we start to believe we know stuff. Also, we shy away from being seen as the one who asks questions because we don’t understand anything. Such attitudes are detrimental to us.

Whenever you have a pressing question; one without which you cannot understand concepts in the future, you should seek immediate assistance. Ask your lecturer especially if he/she is open and time is on your side. If the lecture hall is so big and intimidating, turn to your neighbor for a little clarification and note down your issue to seek assistance later.

Typical Lecture room

10. Go through your notes within the first 24 hours.

This is the ultimate tip of getting the best out of lectures. On top of the 50% lost in the first 20 minutes, we loose an additional 15% of memory on what we learn if we don’t revise it within the first 24 hours, making it 65%. And since our current world is full of technology and social distractions, the rates might be higher.

A close friend who is one of the smartest guys I know has used this principle since first year and attributes his great performance to it. If you revise your day work before you go to sleep every day, you create a focused mind environment and your memory lasts longer.

At this point I expect you to know your most effective knowledge acquisition and retention strategies. Never wait for the last week to cram all that has been taught throughout the semester. Study groups’ discussions can help you learn from your friends, points you might have overlooked.


If you apply these tips during your college life, I can guarantee you better performance in your forthcoming exams. You need to have a positive attitude towards your studies, create a serene environment for knowledge acquisition and reinforce what you learn with extra action. Thanks for reading, I hope you will start to make the best out of your college lectures from today.

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