Aug. 21, 2021

What should I look for in a lecture?

Do you simply sit and listen in a lecture? It's a good start, but often not enough! It’s important to be an active listener and learn by listening. But how to do this?
Students lecture

Our suggestion is that you stay focused and watch for lecture cues. Lecture cues can be verbal and non-verbal. They will help you understand the structure, content, and purpose of a lecture. Here we list the top four lecture cues that you can’t miss.

1. Organization cues help you follow the flow of ideas. They include words and phrases that indicate listing, timeline, comparing, contrasting, cause-and-effect, and transitioning.

  • Listing: first, second, third...; moreover; in addition; next
  • Timeline: in the 1980s; in 2000; in the 21th century
  • Comparing: likewise; similarly; both
  • Contrasting: unlike; although; on the contrary; however
  • Cause and effect: the reason is...; because (of); the outcome is...; consequently; as a result
  • Transitioning: okay; well; alright; let’s move on to...; let’s turn to

2. Information cues highlight key concepts, theories, examples, and opinions.

  • Concepts: refers to...; it is called...; it means...
  • Theories: explains; discovers
  • Examples: for instance; for example; such as; a good example is...
  • Opinions: I think; in my opinion; argue; state; claim

3. Tone, volume, and speed of voice are non-verbal cues used to attract or hold attention.

  • Tone of voice can be excited, cheerful, concerned, serious, and sarcastic. It’s the subtext of the lecture content. It will supplement your understanding of the lecture.
  • Instructors normally increase their volume to highlight something.
  • Instructors often slow down their speech to emphasize something important.

4. Repetition is intended to improve knowledge retention. Pay attention to what is repeated by your instructors. It's likely to be on your assignments or exams.


Besides watching for these lecture cues, we also suggest you to take notes in lectures. Do you want to learn effective notetaking? Have a look at our notetaking methods blog.  Have fun!