How to Make the Best of Lectures at School

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As Muslims, we must be proficient in whatever we do: be it our worship, our career, or our academic lives. The Muslims in the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ excelled not only in Islamic sciences, but advanced sciences of medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. The host of contributions in that golden age could not have been possible without their self-discipline in both their ‘Ibaadah(worship) and in their academic routines. Both in our quests for Islamic knowledge and that of the worldly sciences, we must make the most of the resources available to us.  The time spent during school lectures is the best time to glean and retain information – so how can we make the most of this time? Read on!
  • Pray First, pray sincerely to Allah to grant you knowledge. Here are two du’as that you can incorporate into your routine:
    • On waking up in the morning, read the following du’a: Allaahumma ‘innee ‘as’aluka ‘ilman naafi’an, wa rizqan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan. O Allah, I ask You for knowledge that is of benefit, a good provision, and deeds that will be accepted . [i]
    • Read the following du’a from the Qu’ran (Surah Taha, verse 114): Rabbi Ziddni ‘Ilmaa. My Lord, increase me in knowledge.

  • Be Involved – During the lecture, try to be as actively involved as possible. Ask questions if you don’t understand something, or offer your opinion on any of the points mentioned. This will help you retain and understand material much better than if you just listen passively!

  • Focus – Don’t be afraid to sit in the front row – it helps you avoid distraction. Needless to say, your cellphone must also be safely tucked away so that you don’t get tempted to text someone (or to Google the lecture material)!

  • Plan and prepare – Go over notes from the last class before the next lecture. If you can arrive 10 minutes before your class begins, this is the best time to scan your previous notes. It is also good to get an idea of the lecture material ahead of the lecture by getting copies of the syllabus or course outline. If possible, get previous exam papers from the same lecturer so that you know which points to focus on during class.

  • Eat well – Have a healthy snack before the lecture. This is vital as numerous studies show the relationship between a good breakfasts and attention levels at school.

  • Make great notes – There are more than a few ways to make better notes; and your notes are the best aid to retaining information.
    • Make your notes colorful and interesting. Carry colored pens and highlighters with you so you can quickly emphasize the important points during the lecture. Use colored index tabs or sticky notes to neatly organize your notes.
    • Write clearly. Although this might seem unnecessary, I cannot emphasize the importance of this. There have been times when I have not understood formulae or concepts because my handwriting simply was not legible enough!
    • Try learning shorthand so that you can write quicker in class and spend more time listening. The most common methods of shorthand are Gregg’s, Pitman and Teeline. Learning shorthand will be worth your time and will be useful in any career you choose in the future.
    • I have recently discovered the Cornell method, which is a highly effective way to condense and organize your notes. This process was developed in the 50s by Walter Pauk of Cornell University, and it will help you enormously when it is time to study for your exams! See a sample of the Cornell method below:How to Make the Best of Lectures at School