Do you know what is the first thing top students study before anything else?

Lecture notes!

Lectures are the key to getting high grades in college or university.

If your course has exams, then the lectures are usually responsible for the largest portion of the grade you will be getting in the course. Unless, if your professor says otherwise.

The primary reason why you need to know lecture material well, is because the person who will be creating the exam is the same person who creates the lectures; your professor. The lectures are his main source of information when creating exams.

This is why you need to know your lectures inside out.

You will be able to master the lecture material by using these following steps.

Step 1: Identify what you need to study, and collect your notes

The first step is the easiest step in this 5-step system.

Before you start your studying session, please go through your course outline (syllabus) and identify exactly what you need to know for your exams.

Numerous students fail to do well in exams because they have either forgotten to study a specific area, or they wasted time by studying topics they did not need to study.

Also, make sure that you know how many weeks of material you will be tested on the exam. You don’t want to lose the opportunity to get the full grades in an exam just because you “forgot” to study a specific set of lectures.

Step 2: Power preview the lecture notes

Once you have collected all your lecture material, start the studying process with a power preview.

Power preview is essentially the task of going through your lecture material very quickly within a specific time period.

For example, say that you have 10 slides to go through, set a goal to complete the task within 25 minutes. Repeat this as many times as you need, and take 5-10 minute breaks in between. This technique is called Pomodoro Technique.

I recommend that you read through all lecture slides and notes. In this blog, I have explained the importance of warming up the brain for deep learning. In short, previewing material prior to the actual studying process helps you easily absorb large quantities of information efficiently.

Pay close attention to headings, concepts and details explained in these notes. Specifically, make note of any details such as numbers, dates or names. These are very important for you to know.

You may ask, why do I need to know the details in the lecture?

You have to memorize these details because your professor thinks it is important for you to know them. This is the reason he has put them on the slides.

Details of concepts are very testable, and often the primary source of multiple choice questions. It is very easy to create multiple choice questions using these details, and your professors often resort to making these most of the time.

So remember, do not skim or skip over any notes in the lecture slides. All notes in the slides are highly testable.

Step 3: Handwrite your lecture notes

After you have performed the previewing process, you should start taking handwritten notes. This means you have to start writing down all concepts and details associated with the notes.

Do not type them out.

The process of writing them from hand has a tremendous positive effect on learning. Writing your notes, especially PowerPoint lecture notes, will help you to form stronger memories and learn more from the lectures.

There are quite a few benefits associated with writing notes by hand. Few of the benefits include:

  • Increases your ability to focus
  • Increases your comprehension
  • You will be able to understand and process more information
  • Improves your memory
  • Inspire your creativity
  • Engages your mind
  • Extend your attention span
  • Improves your organization of information
  • Improves your prioritizing skills
  • Provides a condensed document for study purposes later

Also, when you are writing these down, focus on the concept and on the details of how the concepts are connected to each other.

Step 4: Study the “Details in Detail” for the lectures

I will tell you why memorizing details in lecture notes are so important.

When I was in my 3rd year, a very wise professor told me to pay very close attention to details in the lectures when I study for exams. I couldn’t figure out why we would need to remember these small details for exams. I thought it’s not like we are going to remember these small details after the exam.

He specifically told the class to memorize details such as numbers, dates, and names. I thought this was very unusual because all the professors prior to him told me to focus on the main concepts.

Either way, I decided to follow his advice, and studied his notes in great detail. I made sure I knew all the concepts, numbers, dates, names in the lecture well.

The midterm time came. Like the professor said, I studied the “details in detail”. As I started to answer the exam, I started to get a warm feeling of confidence. I felt like I knew the answer to pretty much every question in the exam. That was one of the happiest days in my life, because I had never felt that way before during an exam.

For the first time, I was excited as I waited for the exam results to come out. Lo and behold, I got 93% in the midterm. This was the highest I scored in any exam up to that point.

Since then, I have followed the same strategy for my other courses, and continued to get great results. This revolutionized how I studied for the rest of my exams.

I later realized why this was a very effective strategy. When you pay attention to details, such as names, numbers and dates, you subconsciously encourage your brain to remember the concept in detail. It is quite difficult to remember the details without remembering the concept.

I found this method is especially useful if you have lots of multiple choice and/or short answer questions.

Step 5: Perform repeated reviews and quiz yourself


Power reviews are about speed and recall. This step is about reinforcing what you learned repeatedly, so you can recall the information on command.

For about 30 minutes, review your lectures quickly. Quiz yourself as you study. For example, as you go through concepts, ask yourself, “what do I remember about the concept?” Write down to see how much you remember. Compare the answers, learn what you didn’t get.

Repeat this process until you are comfortable with material and can write few sentences similar your professors explanation.

Do this enjoyable pace. If it is not enjoyable, you are not doing it right. Use Pomodoro Technique to get started.

What you are favorite ways to study for exams?