Registered Late? Now What?

Although it is not standard practice to allow student’s to register once lectures have begun, there are always exceptions to the rule.

If you are a late registration student and struggling to figure out how to go about catching up, take a look at the Late Registration – Student Procedure post that can be found under the Need Help? page of the blog.  Alternatively click here to be taken there directly.


Taking Notes in Lectures: The Why & How Of It All

Taking effective notes in class and writing down verbatim what the lecturer says are two very different things. Proper note taking not only assists with comprehension and retention but transforms you into an active learner.

Note Taking

The style of teaching at college level is very different from what you were exposed to in high school. During your school years, particularly Grades 11 and 12, teachers tend to focus quite narrowly on “textbook learning” and preparing you for your final exams. In college however, lecturers rely more on expanding on what is in the textbook, so as to provide you with a broader and deeper understanding.

This change in style and focus can be disorientating for students who are used to learning the content of a textbook by heart and having little experience in applying what they have learned.

A simple and effective way of improving your understanding and retention is by learning to take effective notes during lectures.

Why the Emphasis on Taking Notes?:

1. Retention and Review

First and foremost, studies show that retention (i.e. remembering new information) decreases at the following rate:


Thus, having good notes to review for exams or for use in assignments is essential.

2. Listen and Learn

Taking notes while in a lecture forces you to:

  • Actually tune in and listen to what is being said.
  • Analyse what is being said – sifting out what is important and should be taken note of, from what is not.
  • Be an active, rather than passive, learner – resulting in you thinking about what you are taking note of and identifying gaps in your understanding.

Note taking is in fact a high level skills involving complex cognitive processes such as: analysing, evaluating, reviewing, writing and synthesizing.

note taking.2


How to Take Good Notes:

DO’S –
  • Be attentive to the main points and important information i.e. facts, details, examples and explanations that expand on a main point.
  • Keep your notes brief. Take down key words and short sentences.
  • Where possible, use your own words – this helps with retention and comprehension vs. mindlessly writing down  what you hear.
  • Formulas, definitions, terminology and specific facts should be noted down exactly.
  • Write legibly – notes are of no use to you if you cannot decipher what you have written.
  • Create your own system of symbols and abbreviations that you use consistently e.g.


  • Use bullet points and indentations to indicate levels of related information and to distinguish between major and minor points.
  • Use one highlighter or pen colour to indicate new words, terminology.
  • Use a different highlighter or pen colour to highlight words or concepts you are not sure of or need to look up – you can then go back to your notes and add what you find out about the word / concept.
  • Start your notes for each new lecture on a new, clean page, date and number your pages – this will help keep your notes in order.
  • Do review your notes within 24 hours – look for and attend to any words or phrases you cannot make out or don’t understand; fill in key words, gaps, questions you might have; compare your notes to your textbook reading and add to them.

Note Taking

  • DO NOT try to write down every word the lecturer speaks. Be selective, seeking out the main points and information.
  • Do not use tatty, scrap pieces of paper to write your notes on.
  • Do not record a lecture using your cell phone voice recorder, in place of taking notes. By actively deciding what to take note of and the physical action of writing the information down, you are processing, analysing and comprehending the information. In addition to this, you can quickly read your notes later for points or facts you need or in preparation for a class vs. having to troll through the entire voice recording and all the added, unnecessary “bumpf” the lecturer also spoke about on that day, in search for a single phrase or point. Don’t be tempted. Don’t be that guy / girl.

How to Pick Up on What is Important?

The following is not a hard and fast rule…BUT…lecturers often give clues as to what is important and should be taken note of, the trick is to look (and listen) for the verbal and non-verbal cues (and blatant HINTS) given throughout the lecture:

  • If it’s been written down on the whiteboard…it is most likely important and should be noted.
  • If it is in bold or CAPS or BOTH in the lecture notes or PowerPoint notes…it is most likely important and should be noted.
  • Repetition. They aren’t repeating the same point over and over for their health…get the HINT.
  • Emphasis. This can be picked up in two ways: a) tone of voice and gestures used when discussing a particular topic / concept / theme e.g. “There are TWO THEORIES on the …”; b) the amount of time a lecturer spends on a particular point or topic, the number of examples they use in order to ensure that the idea is clearly understood.
  • Reviews given at the beginning of a class (highlighting important points or topics from the previous lesson) and summaries given at the end of a class.


Dietsche, V.K. (2000). Taking Notes: 5 College Success Tips. Retrieved from: [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Taking Lecture Notes. (2001). Retrieved from: [Accessed on: 07 July 2016].

Academic Skills: Methods of Taking Notes. (n.d.) Retrieved from: [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]




Why Attend Lectures?

BMH, Durban lecturer, Julia Sutherland, has provided us with eight excellent reasons why you should attend lectures.

2509265803_fd5fe56b33It’s a new year and a good time to work on kicking bad habits and introducing new ones. For many students the temptation to skip lectures is huge and can end up snowballing into an irreversible problem after too many have been missed.

Think of it this way: if lectures weren’t necessary, they wouldn’t be offered. Need more convincing? Here are another eight good reasons why you should be attending lectures:

  1. Someone is paying a lot of money for you to be here, whether you are paying for yourself, or if your parents are paying for you, or even if you are on a bursary; someone is making sacrifices for your education. If you don’t attend class, you are throwing away money. Jonas (2006) advises students to “make the most of [their] investment by attending class.”
  2. If you miss a class, you will always miss something, even if you get notes from a friend.
  3. Lectures are where the assessment answers are, how else are you going to get them? You will also find out what you don’t have to study from the textbook, which will save you time later.
  4. I know a lot of us are commitment-phobes, but as an adult it is important to show commitment to something. If you sign up for a course you are promising to be there for every lecture – this is how resources (such as lecture room size) are allocated.
  5. Did you know that according to a study done at Harvard University (2010) only 6.7% of the world have a college education? So many people would give anything to be in your shoes, so don’t squander the opportunity.
  6. Many studies (Aden, Yahye & Dahir, 2013; Narula & Nagar, 2013; Cheung, 2009; LeBlan, 2005) have shown that class attendance and student success rates are positively correlated. In other words, students who attend lectures are more likely to succeed.
  7. Generally if you attend class (and focus while you are there), the time you will need later to study is decreased.
  8. Finally, your lecturers spend so much time and effort on creating class material that is educational, interesting and most importantly contains information that you need to pass (or rather ace) the course. It is the job of a lecturer to help those who want to learn, so make sure you fall into that category and you will get all the help that you need.



LeBlanc, H.P. (2005) The Relationship Between Attendance and Grades in the College Classroom. Proceedings from the 17th annual Meeting of the International Academy of Business Disciplines. Pittsburgh

Cheung, J.C.K. (2009) Class Attendance and Performance, Which Comes First? Proceedings from the 20th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference. University of Adelaide

Narula, M., Nagar, P. (2013) Relationship Between Students’ Performance and Class Attendance in a Programming Language Subject in a Computer Course. International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing. Vol. 2, Issue 8. Pg. 206 – 210

Aden, A.A., Yahye, Z.A., Dahir, A.M. (2013) The Effect of Students’ Attendance on Academic Performance: A Case Study at Simad University Mogadishu. Academic Research International. Vol. 4, Issue 6. Pg. 409 – 417

Jonas, C. (2006) 6 Great Reasons to Go to Class. Accessed from <; Access Date [17/08/2015]

Huffington Post (2015) 6.7% of the World Has College Degree. Accessed from <; Access Date [17/08/2015]