Surviving a Lecture Class: Tips for Staying on Top of Things



The majority of college students will find themselves sitting in a lecture class along with 300 of their closest friends and classmates. The lecture style class is popular amongst colleges because there is only one professor needed to impress knowledge upon a great number of students. For the most part, students will be interacting with the TA (Teacher’s Assistant) if they have questions in these courses. Not having direct access to the professor and feeling lost amongst a sea of other students in these large lecture classes is overwhelming. It’s also easy for students to lose interest when they’re sitting 18 rows back from the speaker. However, there are ways to survive and thrive in large classes and understand the information presented as well as get a good grade.

1. Sit in the first 10 rows

Students who sit in the back of a lecture class will probably learn more about what their classmates did last weekend than information presented in the course. Even diligent students will be distracted by the consistent chatter and texting occurring in the back of the room. Students who sit in the first 10 rows have a better chance of understanding what’s going on and will have a chance to interact with the speaker.

2. Get to know the TA

Because the TAs are responsible for the majority of grading and student interaction in a large lecture course, it’s important for students to get to know them. TAs don’t have their own office and, as a result, don’t have office hours. However, TAs are often available for discussions after class or via email; they are one of the best resources for these type of classes and their job is to help students manage large courses.

3. Work on note-taking skills

Students who haven’t learned how to quickly and efficiently take notes will have to learn how to do it very quickly in these larger lecture courses. Although auditory learners may thrive in this type of an environment, other students should give themselves accommodations to adjust to the environment. For instance, visual learners can take pictures or notes, or utilize the graphics used in a presentation. Additionally, all students should listen for key words that the speaker emphasizes and take detailed notes on these topics. Taking notes is essential in a larger classroom.

4. Find a study partner or study group

The use of a good study group can’t be emphasized enough when it comes to these larger classes. The feeling of being lost in lecture courses causes frustration and eventually a lower grade. Some students end up dropping the course altogether. In order to prevent this, students are highly encouraged to find at least one classmate who can help ease the feeling of frustration. A few minutes joking around about how difficult it was to hear the speaker can help release tension but then students should get down to organizing the vast amount of material they have received in class.

5. Supplementary material

Students who are auditory learners or who are already familiar with the subject matter will probably do just fine in these types of courses, however, visual learners and kinesthetic learners should locate supplementary materials to help them understand the information presented. For instance, college students can supplement information given by their professor through online searches, text books, and discussion with the TA or study group. Finding additional material also keeps the student focused on the task at hand and keeps them interested in the overall course.

In short

Although large lecture classes can feel dry and daunting at first, all students need to do well in these courses in order to get a high grade and move on to the next course level. It’s important that students, especially in their freshman year, find ways to understand the information presented, engage with the speaker, and locate additional resources in order to be successful.

Robyn Scott is a private English tutor at TutorNerds. She attended the University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate and the University of Southampton in England as a graduate student.


Photo by Xbxg32000 (Own work by uploader; the watermark is my own.) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Author: SmartStudent

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