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6 Tips and Tricks for Staying Focused in a Lecture

Lectures are common in college, but it can be tough to stay focused and retain the material. These tips can help you make the most of this learning format.

Lecture classes are an inevitable part of attending a large public university, particularly during your freshman and sophomore years. Some of your general education classes will take place with 100 or more of your peers in a large room with stadium-like seating, with the professor at the front often speaking into a microphone. For some, this may sound like a great chance to catch up on sleep or other schoolwork because the fear of being called on out of the blue is lessened. Unfortunately for them, the point of taking these types of classes is not to sleep your way through but to develop a basis of education from which your other classes can foster. Coming from someone who’s been a student in a handful of these classes, there are ways to stay focused during a lecture to retain a good amount of material. So, without further they are.

1. Take notes on paper

Unless you absolutely need to take notes on your laptop, don’t bring it to class. You’ll end up surfing the web and checking social media even if you promise yourself you won’t. If you're disciplined enough to not hook your laptop up to the wireless network, then by all means use it—but most of us are not that disciplined.

Related: How to Take Better Notes in High School and College

2. Don't be on your phone

Don’t leave your phone on top of your desk. Out of habit, many students leave their cell phone face up next to their notebook during class. It’s distracting to other students and disrespectful to the professor if you constantly check your phone throughout class. Some professors might even call you out in front of the class, which—needless to say—is not a great first impression.

3. Refresh yourself on the material

Review your notes from the previous class before the next session begins. Considering your class will most likely not meet every day, this gives you the chance to get back on track to where the last class left off, and you'll be more likely to pay attention since you’ll remember what the professor was talking about.

4. Don't distract yourself...or others

You might be tempted to rip a crossword or Sudoku puzzle out of the daily paper to pass the time. As tempting as that may be, try to avoid bringing any unnecessary distractions to class; you’ll be much better off when exams roll around and you actually remember the material that was discussed. Plus, your fussing about will distract your classmates.

Related: 7 Habits Proven to Help You Ace Your College Classes

5. Grab a front-row seat

Sit in front of the lecture hall. It may seem intimidating at first, but being right up front will help you stay focused. You’ll avoid being distracted by the person a few rows ahead playing solitaire on their laptop, and you'll be forced to pay attention and take notes because you’re clearly visible to the professor.

6. Don't take advantage of the attendance policy

Don’t assume you can skip out on lecture classes and not be missed. Professors have their own ways of knowing who's attending regularly and who's sleeping through their 8:00 am class. One of my lecture professors used an effective method for attendance and participation. As part of the class materials, we were required to purchase a small device that we registered to that particular class. Throughout class, questions would be posted on the projector screen that everyone had to answer by clicking “A,” “B,” “C,” or “D” on their device. Once the results were in, a bar graph would be displayed to notify the class how the majority of students answered. It was an interactive way for the professor to promote class participation while also taking attendance since the device was registered to each student individually.

Related: Important Academic Advice for Freshman Year of College

Lecture classes will be only a small part of your overall academic experience, but using them to develop good class etiquette will help you be a better student in all of your college courses. Stay focused and engaged with these tips and you'll get a lot more out of this learning format. 

Need more advice? We've got you covered when it comes to college tips and tricks

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About Kristen Healy

Kristen Healy

Kristen Healy is a former Assistant Editor at Carnegie, the higher education marketing agency behind CollegeXpress. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a double major in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Political Science. Her college career was spent writing for the news section of UMass’s Daily Collegian, volunteering at the university television studio, and enjoying the sites and activities of downtown Amherst. Kristen loves to travel and spent part of her junior year studying abroad in Galway, Ireland, where she gained perspective on what it's like to attend a large university in another country. She hopes her experiences in public higher education will help guide readers through their own college journeys!


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