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Want to maximise your scores? Here’s how to make the most of your classroom lectures

It is important that you find ways to extract value from your classroom experience. Here are a few tips that can guide you

education Updated: Aug 24, 2017 17:10 IST
Lessons,Scores,Memorising tricks
If you pre-read the textbook or distributed notes for an upcoming class, when the material is actually presented in class, it will be the second time that you are exposed to it.(Getty Images)

Why do most of us find classes and lectures boring?

The average teacher delivers lessons for average students and with much repetition at around 50 words per minute (wpm). Hardly any student is exactly average, so hardly any student is in sync with the teacher’s pace. Your mind processes information at about 1000 wpm while the lecture is plodding along at 50 wpm.

To compensate, your mind processes other thoughts and observations, often completely missing the lesson. Your eyes drift to the window to gaze outside. You stare at other students in the room in order to see what they are doing. Your mind wanders to your last vacation and the fun you had. Before you even know it, class is over and you walk away, having absorbed nothing of what was said.

It is important that you find ways to extract value from your classroom experience. Here are a few tips that can guide you.

Prepare for class in advance

It is said that Arjuna, the greatest archer of the Mahabharata, practised archery in total darkness even before his guru had started to teach it. In effect, he was so dedicated that he was way ahead of his syllabus.

According to a law school graduate, this is the most important tip that helped get him through the torture of law school. He believes that if you pre-read the textbook or distributed notes for an upcoming class, when the material is actually presented in class, it will be the second time that you are exposed to it. This will not only make it easier to follow the class, but will also be an advantage when you eventually prepare for exams. Basically, you need to familiarise yourself with the lesson before it is taught in class. So prepare for tomorrow’s lesson by reading it today from your textbook, working out the examples and noting your doubts.

If tomorrow’s lesson depends on something you learnt last year but are not confident about, revise that lesson too. By doing this, you will have built up momentum for the lesson. You will now be in sync with the lesson when it is taught in class, and will be able to better understand, follow and appreciate it.

The front row actually does help

I remember that most students who sat in the front row of my college were considered ‘uncool’. The cool chaps were usually the backbenchers. The problem is that when you are seated at the back, everything that every other student is doing in the rows ahead of you becomes the focus of your attention. It’s a good idea to be in the front row (or the first few rows) simply to prevent distractions by curtailing your field of vision to the blackboard and teacher. The location makes it easier to hear the teacher as well as to see material on the blackboard, whiteboard or projection screen. Sitting in the direct gaze of the professor also means that you will tend to look around less and are also unlikely to leave class early.

Windows and doors are often a distraction, so try and be seated away from them. This can usually be achieved by choosing a place that is broadly in the centre of a given row.

Clarify doubts, adjust pace, participate

There is a Chinese proverb that the person who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, but the one who doesn’t, remains a fool permanently. I have found that some students are reluctant to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid. Remember: There are no stupid questions. The stupidity, if any, lies in not adequately using the opportunity in class to clarify a genuine doubt. In any case, if you have prepared in advance for the class, the possibility of your question being shallow is miniscule.

Of course, different teachers have varying rules about taking questions. For example, some professors want to cover the material first, then take questions towards the end of the class. Make sure that you follow the guidelines of the teacher.

Also, if the lesson is moving at a pace that is too fast for you, do not hesitate to politely ask the professor to slow down or repeat. It can often be hard to judge the appropriate pace for a class, and most teachers are usually happy to accommodate requests as long as they know that the concerned student is sincere.

Try to actively participate in class. Such participation forces your mind to focus on the material being taught. A happy bonus is that it demonstrates to the teacher that you actually care about what is being taught (which means that you may catch a lucky break on the occasions when you need it).

The authors have written 13 Steps to Bloody Good Marks, published by Westland Publications Ltd. This section has been excerpted with their permission.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 16:18 IST