Getting The Most Out of Lectures and Seminars

Lectures and seminars are a fundamental part of undergraduate life. Find out what they involve and how to make the most of this valuable time.

What are lectures and seminars?

Lectures are where you’ll be introduced to the main topics on your course. For many degree courses, this involves up to three hours of teaching per module, per week, split across one or two sessions. They involve very little direct interaction between lecturer and student – often based around a slideshow presentation, lectures are given to large groups of students in a theatre setting.

Attendance at lectures is usually compulsory and, for some courses, vital in completing a module. Although presentation-led lectures may be uploaded online afterwards, you’ll gain a much better understanding of the content by attending and having it explained to you.

Seminars are small group sessions which give you the opportunity to discuss topics in some depth. In a more relaxed setting, you’ll be encouraged to apply your knowledge of the lecture content and additional reading to complete group work, participate in discussions and ask your tutor questions.

These sessions are held in smaller groups, typically in a classroom. For each module you’ll be required to attend an hour’s seminar per week to consolidate and evaluate the lecture material.

How should I prepare for lectures?

Preparation for lectures is the key to a successful degree. Being well-prepared will empower you to contribute, and help you avoid feeling lost and overwhelmed.  

This includes knowing exactly where and when your lectures will be. Get in the habit of checking your university email account in advance of sessions. Your lecturers will use this mode of communication to let you know about any additional preparation, as well as to notify you of room changes, rescheduling and cancellations.

How should I act during lectures?

While it’s tempting, don’t try to write down everything that’s said – you may miss out on important information while writing down something minor. Lecturers will often provide handouts or upload presentation slides online after the lecture, so spend the session listening to as much as you can as well as  jotting down important words and phrases.

If you miss or don’t understand something, don’t worry. Lecturers are there to introduce topics and provide new information. If you need further help, arrange a meeting with your lecturer to discuss  your struggles.

To get the most out of your lectures, maintain a well-respected manner. While it’s good to have friends on your course, use your contact hours wisely and don’t become side-tracked – stay focused on what you’re being taught. Make small changes such as sitting in the front row to help you concentrate.



How should I prepare for seminars?

First and foremost, attend your lectures. You’ll struggle to participate in your seminars or understand discussion topics if you don’t receive the information.

Revisit your notes after the lecture. You’ll be able to collect your thoughts, identify areas you’d like to go over in the seminar and prepare questions to ask, while the content is still fresh in your mind.

You’ll be assigned additional reading and tasks to complete ahead of the seminar which, as well as your existing lecture notes, count towards your seminar preparation. These materials will include a variety of thoughts and opinions around a topic, and are designed to engage your critical thinking skills, as well as go further into the concepts you’ll have been taught in your lectures.

How should I act during seminars?

As seminars are held with the aim of kick-starting discussions, it’s important to be vocal and raise any interesting points or thoughts you have – participation is key to making these sessions worthwhile.

Try not to feel nervous about speaking up or being put on the spot – the relaxed seminar environment is designed to boost your confidence and ultimately enhance your learning. By getting involved, you’ll enrich your understanding of the content and may even learn something new from hearing the different perspectives of your classmates.

As you would after a lecture, you should revisit your seminar notes while you’re still switched on. Adding any points that were raised in discussion to your existing lecture notes will come in handy for giving your future assignments some more depth, and generally improving your understanding of the topic.