How to Get the Most From Lectures

Preview and review can double your retention

Modern society is bombarding us with so much information that we are conditioned to be passive, to be entertained, to be an audience.

To be an active student, we have to overcome our spectator training.

Come to class with all homework finished. Sit in front of the room. Pay attention to cues, gestures, boardwork, repetition, emphasis, transitions. Ask questions of yourself, the topic, and the instructor, if possible. Use the 15 minute preview and review solution described below.

Use it or lose it

Research on memory and retention shows that we can forget 40-70% in 1 hour and up to 80% within 24 hours.

The 15-minute Solution

These five steps can more than double your effectiveness.

Preview material - 3 minutes.

  • Before lecture, thumb through the chapter on the topic for the day.
  • After class, ask the teacher what will be covered next time.
  • Convince yourself it's important. Generate interest and motivation.

Take notes with organization built in.

  • Use the Cornell system of notetaking.
  • Create a hierarchical organization of key points

Outline key points - 6 minutes.

  • As soon as possible, create a short outline.
  • Use the left margin to identify key points

Review immediately - 3 minutes.

  • Within 24 hours, review your outline and notes.
  • Add comments to margin

Review again - 3 minutes

From How to Be a Successful Student, Donald Martin, c 1988.

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