Listening to Lectures - Study Skills & Vocabulary

Before The Lecture
During The Lecture
After The Lecture
Points To Keep In Mind


Listening to lectures is a large part of student life. However, sometimes it is difficult to use lecture material effectively. Obviously not all lectures are well-planned and prepared, but the suggestions listed below should help you to get some value from lectures. (This module can be used with Listening to Lectures - Note-taking.)

Before the lecture

Preview the lecture topic by reading the textbook section that relates to the lecture topic. This will help you to understand the lecture and to focus on any ideas which were not mentioned in the text.

Review your previous notes. This will help you recall concepts and vocabulary which may be used in the next lecture.

Discuss the topic with classmates. Together you can discuss what is important and become more familiar with the topic.

Focus your listening. Make some predictions about the lecture.

ask yourself "What do I already know?", "What do I want to know?", "How will the lecture relate to other topics or to my interests?"

ask yourself "What am I supposed to learn from this lecture?", "What is the lecture’s purpose?"

Look up the pronunciation of new vocabulary. This will help you recognise the spoken form of the word during the lecture.

Find out how much priority is given to lectures. Are examination questions based on lectures?

Ask the lecturer if you may audiotape the lecture.

Develop a note-taking strategy in the first two weeks of term. See the Note-taking Pathway or Listening to Lectures - Note-taking Module for practice.


During the lecture

Evaluate the lecturer’s style. What kind of organisation is used? How can you cope with the organisation?

Evaluate your listening style. Do you have poor eyesight? Do you have difficulty in hearing the lecture?

Many lectures have 3 parts; listen for these sections:

  • opening remarks (information about assignments, review, questions, announcements)
  • body (develops the information)
  • closing remarks (questions, discussion, assignments, often important information)

Listen for the body of the lecture. (see Study Listening)

  • body "I’d like to/going to/intend to..."
  • new section "Well/Right/Good/Alright/OK/Now", "I’d like to move on to.." "Let’s look at.."

Use any visual displays to find out main points and details considered important by the lecturer. Notes written on the board are usually important.

Focus on the overall point of the lecture. (see Study Listening)

Listen for signal or marker words. (see Study Listening)

To focus attention, for example, a rhetorical question, "What is ...?", "Do you know ...?"

For additional information "I might add...", "Another/In addition/Further/Not only..."

To indicate contrast "Although/However/On the other hand/Despite/Nevertheless..."

For cause and effect "This is why...", "Therefore/Because of..", "brings about/caused by..."

For a list "One of/First/Second/Then/Another/Finally/Last..."

For an example or explanation "For example/Take the case of/Imagine...." "That is..."

For important points "the important/central/basic point", "I’d like to stress/underline..."

For a digression (a digression is NOT important, "That’s an aside", "Just a related idea."

To review or summarise "So/In short/In brief/Summing up ...", "Just to review/look back.."

To connect a new idea with a previous idea "If you remember ...", "You already know..."

Listen for intonation to know when ideas have been completed. (see Study Listening)

Falling intonation indicates the speaker has completed an idea.

Rising intonation tells the listener that the idea has not been completed.

Listen for voice emphasis or stress. (see Study Listening)

Pronouncing a word slower, louder, or more carefully demonstrates its importance.

Listen for a discussion of recent developments or research. This may not be included in your textbook.

Use gestures and expressions to help you interpret the lecture. Gestures can indicate time sequences/before or after situations/different segments of the lecture.

Listen for repetition. Only make notes once. (see Note-taking Pathway or Module)

Listen for any comments regarding the next lecture topic. The lecturer may not follow the syllabus.


After the lecture

Rewrite your notes as soon as possible.

Reflect on the lecture. "What was difficult, new, or interesting?"

Discuss the lecture with a classmate. Talking about new ideas can make them clear to you.

Reread the part of your text which covered the lecture. Think about how the lecture related to the text.

Talk to the lecturer before the next lecture about any problems.

Go to Media Services in the library and watch English television programmes which are related to your study area (current affairs programmes, news, or educational programmes are best).


Points to keep in mind

You are listening to get the speaker’s main ideas (not to remember every word).

You are listening to help when revising.

You are listening to make what the speaker has said part of your knowledge (blend it with what you already know).



  1. Discuss or think about your experiences with lectures. What have you found difficult about lectures? How have you coped with lectures up to now?
  2. You may need to review the language presented in "During the lecture". If you need practise, find the book Study Listening (study skills shelf in the Resource Area in the ELSC). Do as many of the activities as you need to become familiar with the vocabulary. What other words can you add to the ones given?
  3. Choose one of the lectures listed below. You may choose one which is related to your field or of interest to you.
  4. Read the title of the lecture (if given). Discuss which of the suggestions in "Before the lecture" seem useful in approaching this lecture. Practise the useful suggestions.
  5. Discuss which of the suggestions in "During the lecture" seem useful. Listen to the lecture using the suggestions. If the topic is difficult or unfamiliar, read the tapescript first.
  6. After listening, use the suggestions in "After the lecture".
  7. Think about or discuss what you found easy to do. What did you find difficult?
  8. Think of areas you can improve. Which of the suggestions do you need to practise? Write down what you have decided you want to improve or practise.
  9. Listen to another lecture to make improvements.



Study listening (ways of learning shelf)

Unit 12 Problems of urbanization

Unit 17 Competition for land use

Unit 18 Preventive medicine

Unit 19 Microtechnology

Unit 20 Development and aid

Study skills in English

Exercise 13 Volcanoes

(ways of learning shelf) Exercise 15 (short paragraphs on various topics)

Exercise 16 Strengths of British trade unions

Exercise 17 Weaknesses of British trade unions

Exercise 24 Solving problems

Exercise 25 Communication

Exercise 26 How to present a seminar paper

Exercise 26 Marriage customs

Exercise 30 Computers

Medicine (ESP shelf)

Understanding a lecture (all units, different topics)

Soundings (listening shelf)

p 51 The good language learner

Interface (ESP shelf)

p 24 Sound (side A, #136)

p 28 Engine types (side A, #177)

p33 Engine overheating (side A, #218)

p 40 Robots-the ideal workers? (side A, #270)

p 48 Computer programs (side A, #329)

p52 Qualities of metals (side A, #373)

p56 Extracting metals (side A, #400)

p 61 Properties of metals (side A, #527)

p 64 Oersted’s experiment (side B, #002)

p 65 Inventors, dates, inventions (side B, #022)

p 68 Safety with fuses (side B, #038)

p 79 Deepest mines and drillings (side B, #089)

p 84 Dikes in the Netherlands (side B, #123)

p 85 Alaskan oil pipeline (side B, #144)

p 89 Spring-loaded ball valve (side B, #183)

p 93 Pumping systems-the heart (side B, #235)

p 104 Energy in food (side B, #306)

p 105 Electrical consumption in Britain (side B, #326)

p 108 Energy divisions (side B, #345)

p 111 Energy divisions (side B, #369)

p 116 Synthetic materials (side B, #411)

p 119 Manufacturing celluloid (side B, #437)

p 120 Composites (side B, #459)

p 121 Properties of metals (side B, #502)

English in computing (ESP shelf)

Tapescript 1 Computer system configuration

Tapescript 2 BASIC commands

Tapescript 3 Keyboard variations

Tapescript 4 Document readers

Tapescript 5 Forms of output

Tapescript 6 Types of discs

Tapescript 7 Main memory

Tapescript 8 Data transmission services

Tapescript 9 Interpreters and compilers

Tapescript 10 Computer personnel

Tapescript 11 Database program

Tapescript 12 Spreadsheet programs

A course in intermediate scientific English (ESP shelf)

Unit 6 Transfer of heat energy

Properties of metals and non-metals

Two desert plants

Two of Louis Pasteur’s experiments

Different types of Bunsen burner flames

Kipps’ apparatus


Contraction and expansion of water

Learning to study in English Activity 5.1 Sunspots (study skills shelf)

Activity 5.4 Boiling water

Activity 5.7 Puns

Activity 5.8 Propaganda

Activity 5.9 Harmful effects of smoking

Activity 6.1 Astrology

Activity 6.3 Microbes

Activity 6.4 Noise

Activity 6.5 Jokes

Activity 6.7 Agriculture

Activity 6.8 How big is your vocabulary?

Activity 6.9 Lighting

Activity 10.2 Bird’s sense of direction

Activity 10.6 Conservation

Activity 10.9 Peru

Activity 12.4 Classifying sports

Globe notes (listening shelf)

p 24 Levi’s jeans

Listening and recall (listening shelf)

p 165 40 very short tapescripts


Last revised: September 1998

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