Student Learning Commons: Reviewing After Lecture

Prepare for learning from lectures

Research shows that 10 minutes of review for every hour of lecture, done within 24 hours of class, dramatically improves recall.  Regularly reviewing class notes is one of the most powerful study strategies.

But how do you do it?


Adding information after lecture my make your notes look messy, but that's okay.  Your notes should be a complete document of what was covered in class. 
Pretty notes aren't worth marks.


First, check your notes

Read over your notes and make sure they’re clear and complete. Add anything that you might have missed; re-write parts that are illegible or unclear.

A great idea is to compare your notes with a classmate’s.  You can help each other remember the lecture and you will both end up with better notes as a result.


Learn the lecture

Study the material to deepen your understanding and promote recall.  Here are some review activities:

  • Recopy examples…A + B = C… and solve them without looking at your notes. A + B = ?
  • Record yourself verbally summarizing the lecture.
    • Listen to the recordings during your commute or other low-energy times.
  • Convert the lecture into questions and answers.
    • Put the Q & A onto flash cards and test yourself regularly.
  • Summarize your notes.
    • Condense each lecture onto one page.
  • Easiest (but not as effective): recopy your notes, re-wording any parts that are unclear.
  • Review Cornell notes by summarizing each page at the bottom and writing test questions on the left.
  • Change the form of your notes. Try a mindmap ->  Different format for notes
  • Twitter logo Tweet about what you learned in class.
  • Facebook logo Post interesting ideas from lecture to your facebook news feed
  • Compare the lecture to what you’ve already learnt in class:
      similarities differences


DO NOT waste your review time by passively re-reading your notes.  This strategy promotes mindless memorization and can create a false sense of mastery.  Having memorized the lecture doesn’t mean you can answer test questions based on it. 
Memorization is NOT understanding.


Review again

After the post-lecture review, plan another review session at least once a week where you go over everything you’ve learned so far this term.  Many of the above techniques can be applied to a larger-scale review.

  • Test yourself with note cards.
  • Review correct cards less often.
  • Condense your lecture summaries into one page for each week...and one for each month.
  • Do all lecture examples again (without looking at your notes).
  • Meet your study group to review and do practice problems.
  • Use your Cornell notes to make an outline of the topics covered so far, and a practice test.


Consistent review, like any new skill, may seem awkward and difficult at first. Regular review is an incredibly powerful study strategy, and is well worth the struggle.