Goldsmiths College, University of London Resources for English Academic Literacy

Listening Strategies

There are three types of listening strategy in this section outlining what you can do before, during and after a lecture or seminar.

Before listening

In order to get the most out of your lectures and seminars, you not only need to sit, listen and think, you also need to prepare for them. You may already do some of the following, but if not, try them out before your next lecture or seminar.

Read up on the content beforehand

Each lecture series is usually accompanied by a list of texts which you should read in advance of the lecture. This will familiarise you with the ideas and information you will hear. It also gives you the opportunity to check important vocabulary which is likely to be used in the lecture. In addition, it will help you to remember the content better, as the more ways you access information, the more likely you are to learn it.

If you can’t read the recommended texts, you should at least spend a few minutes trying to predict what you expect to hear, or think about questions you would like answered.

Predicting the content of the lecture

As we listen, we unconsciously compare what we hear with what we already know. This allows us to identify what is new information and what is already known. In order to help this process, spend a few minutes before the lecture thinking about what you expect to hear. Focus on the title of the lecture and think about what you already know, or questions that you would like answered.

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While listening

Listening in lectures and seminars is an active process.

Selecting what is important or useful

Listen for signposts which tell you what the lecturer thinks is important, eg. "There are three main points ...", "On the other hand ...", "Interestingly, ...".

Like paragraphs in writing, the lecturer's voice will tell you when they are starting a new point. Listen for changes in their intonation: loud and high sounds often indicate importance.

Develop your own note-taking style

Develop your own method for writing different types of information in different ways. You could use:
- colour (eg. different colours for main points and examples)
- abbreviations (gov't, aesth, pysch'y, globn)
- symbols (–», +)
- pictures
- the space on the page (eg. write the lecturer's points on the left, your ideas on the right, new words in the margin)

Look at the lecturer
Don’t forget to look at the lecturer from time to time: a large part of communication is visual. When you do this, try writing without looking at your pen.

Don’t listen for every word

We all have lapses of concentration or find that we have missed or not understood something while we are listening for a long time. When this happens we have a choice: either we try to recall what we have just heard and try to reconstruct it from memory, or we leave it and move on. Unless you can remember things extremely easily and quickly, it is often best to just move on. You can always ask someone else later. By thinking about what it was, you can often miss even more of what is being said.

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After listening


By trying to remember what you have heard, you will increase your chances of remembering it later. Try:
- talking about it with your classmates;
- making a mind-map of the lecture content;
- writing a few sentences which summarise the main points.

Practice - Watch and listen to video clips of Goldsmiths lectures to practise your listening and note-taking skills.

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