Lectures at university can be quite different from lessons at school and college, particularly when you are taught in a big group. This activity will help you to make the most out of lectures.

Background

It’s hard to know what an undergraduate lecture is like until you’ve been to one. Even if you’ve been to a public lecture or sample session as part of visiting university, it’s not quite the same as the real thing because people behave differently at those events and you don’t often have to take notes.

How could this affect me?

Keeping up with note taking, being in a big group and dealing with sensory stimuli can be both challenging and exciting – just like the content of lectures themselves. Many students really enjoy lectures as it’s a chance to learn more about a subject you’re really interested in from an expert in your field.

What to do next?

Think about coping skills for any aspects of lectures you think you may find difficult.

Practical tips

Making notes

  • You can’t really write down everything that is said, even if you have amazing shorthand skills. Though developing your own shorthand and abbreviations isn’t a bad idea
  • It’s pointless copying exactly what’s on the slides – being able to summarise the content you've learnt is a good skill as it requires you to actively process the content and will help with recall later on.
  • If the slides are uploaded before the lecture, print them out with enough space to make notes (3 slides per page).
  • Try to write what you think about the contents of the lecture reflectively, as well as the main points of what is said.
  • Mind mapping, either via software on your laptop or drawn by hand, can be a really useful way of showing how ideas are linked and might suit your way of thinking better than writing down full paragraphs or even bullet points. 

Timing

  • Lectures don’t always start on time, but it’s better to assume that they will. If you can, arrive early as you will not miss anything and you can get settled before it begins.
  • Sometimes being late is unavoidable – while some lecturers don’t allow latecomers, they should tell you in advance if this is the case. Just come in as quietly as you can – it might feel intimidating at the time, but most people are not going to mind and it’s better not to miss out completely. The same if you need to leave earlier than planned.
  • Other students may well arrive late or need to leave early themselves. This can be distracting, but it’s okay to do this at university, as everyone has things going on outside the course.
  • If you arrive too early for your session, the previous lecture may still be going on, and/or you can get caught in the crowd of people leaving. If you can, spend some time around your lecture theatres close to lecture changeover time and familiarise yourself with the timings and where entrances and exits are.
  • If you have time, go to the loo first! It sounds obvious and embarrassing, but lectures are often two or three hours long and not all of them have breaks (and if they do, there can be queues). You don’t want to be thinking about it throughout the session or having to run out at the end.
  • If you are one of the first people into the lecture theatre, you can choose where to sit – you might like to sit on the end of a row near the aisle so you can get out quickly if you need to leave.
  • If sitting near the front helps you to concentrate, grab a seat there.

Question time

There will often be an opportunity to ask questions in a lecture – either the lecturer will ask if there are any questions during the session or there will be specific time left aside for this at the end. Write your question down and save it for later.

Try to ask a question publicly only if you think others would benefit from hearing the answer (e.g., asking for clarification of a concept). This is quite hard to get to grips with. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask things that are more personal to you and your understanding of a topic or assignment, it’s just that you need to either ask privately at the end of the lecture, email your lecturer or arrange an appointment with them.

Telling the lecturer about your autism

It can be beneficial to tell your lecturers know (in person or via email) that you are autistic and how it affects you – even if you think they already know.

Fern's interview and our advice on telling people about your autism can be useful for you to read if you haven't already told anyone.


This toolkit is an adaptation of the Autism&Uni project led by Marc Fabri from Leeds Beckett University, under license CC BY 4.0. The original Autism&Uni project was funded with support from the European Commission with partners in the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. For more information about this project please visit the Autism&Uni website.

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