What is a university lecture like?

Undoubtedly, when prospective candidates dream about attending university, they imagine all of the movies and television shows they know to create one, hyperbolic view of what a university lecture and life as a student is like. Although, most students would love to party all night, sleep all day and live in an amazing and huge dorm room while at Uni, this will most probably not happen! Which means you’ll also need to prepare for your first month at university.

Lectures, seminars and tutorials

Undergraduate students who are studying taught degrees will conduct independent learning alongside lectures, seminars and tutorials. Lectures tend to have a high number of students in a big room or lecture hall. They typically have at least one lecturer who will speak to the class and feature less interaction with others throughout. Lectures are predominantly for students taking class notes as their teacher works through a presentation, and/or case studies and theories related to the subject.

Seminars are hosted for smaller numbers of students and will allow group work and discussions throughout. There may still be a teacher reciting a large amount of information to students in a large classroom, but they value and expect feedback and participation from their students – which some teachers assess.

Tutorials are a one-on-one session that students book with their lecturers and personal tutors. They aim for specific and individual tuition, and most universities allow students to have one or two of these tutorials per class module. The majority of the time, individuals use this time to discuss previous coursework and assignments, gather constructive and in-depth feedback as well as talk about plans regarding future assessments.

If you find yourself struggling with any of the terms used, be sure to check out a university terms glossary and see if that can help you, too.

Before the university lecture

Most students do not think about the time before the Uni lecture, they daydream about huge lecture halls, with hundreds of students – which can be the scenario in some cases – with a vast amount of knowledge entering their brains. However, students, if they want to completely apply themselves to their course, and have the best chance to achieve good grades, will have to conduct an independent study. Independent study has many pros and cons, and in most cases, is when students have to complete academic readings of journal articles, or academic textbooks prior to the class. It can also include creating and planning presentations, as well as completing research and preparing questions for discussions. There is a big leap between studying A-Levels and a degree at a university level just like there was in the jump from GCSEs to A-Levels, and the academic readings that most courses expect their students to complete reflect this.

The information about the lecture

Universities will have an online portal for their undergraduates to use, that includes module information, lecture presentation slides, handouts, independent reading excerpts/links/PDFs and an electronic submission system for essays and coursework – if that module requires students to submit their work electronically.  The page for each class module is usually uploaded and monitored by the teacher themselves, meaning each one may include different information and less interactive than the others.

In the lecture hall

Lecture halls vary in size from hosting 50 students to hundreds, and you’ll find even if there are lots of fellow students, you tend to sit in the same area every lesson. This means that you should weigh up the best place for you to sit on your first couple of lessons before everyone gets settled in their ways! The front is handy for eager students who want to speak to the lecturer between breaks and after classes, or wish to have a better position for viewing and hearing the lesson. However, sitting at the front also places you in the spotlight for when the teacher looks around the room for participation, or to just hold awkward eye contact.

Sitting in the middle of the row is ideal for having a decent view of the entire theatre, but it will also feel as if you are enclosed in your space, and if the need to go to the bathroom arises then you could be stuck there for the duration! Then, if you decide to sit on the end of the row you have to let everyone pass if they arrive after you, but the quick exit can make all the difference. Once you attend a few lessons, you’ll be able to weigh out the options and begin to understand the lecture hall etiquette, this will be the best way to get the best out of classroom lectures.

That guy with the laptop

Yes. There will always be someone sitting in front, behind or right beside you that has brought what feels like a 1995 Windows hard drive computer with them! Throughout the entire lecture, you’ll hear the annoying tapping constantly, and you’ll sit there looking at your notepad that only has the date written on it and wonder what on Earth is he writing about? Each lecture will always include that annoying student who wants to bring their laptop to feel superior – make sure you’re not one of them, pen and paper will suffice! Just make sure that you have the best student laptop for you!

That person who won’t stop talking

Additionally, there will always be that one guy or girl who will want to speak at any opportune moment. Whenever the lecturer is silent for a few seconds, places a question into the classroom atmosphere, or wishes to start a debate, you can guarantee they’re speaking. They have opinions about everything, have read a few pages of the standard textbook and believe that they hold all knowledge about the universe within their minds! (If you’re looking for cheap student textbooks, you can buy and sell textbooks here) These students will also annoy the hell out of you. Don’t become the chatterbox in lectures, let everyone who wants to speak their mind do so – that is what makes a great debate!

Group work will end you

There will be times that students have to pair up, or form groups to plan, and give a presentation in class regarding a certain topic, theory or question. However, there are also times that students have to get together to discuss a question or research article to then present their findings and opinions to the class later. These group discussions are painfully too frequent in lectures, and the people the teacher pairs you with seem to either be introverted individuals who didn’t complete the reading, so you’re venturing for yourself in the academic wilderness and it takes a bit of time adjusting to university work.