How to Be an Effective Listener in College

by Flora Richards-Gustafson, Demand Media Google

To be a good student in college, you must be a good listener. According to North Shore Community College, up to 80 percent of what you learn in the classroom is a result of listening. In addition to helping you take good notes, being an effective listener in college helps you form a better understanding of the informatin taught and enhances your communication skills.


To listen effectively, you have to focus your attention on the task. Because a classroom can have several distractions, from students arriving late to the sound of clicking laptop keys, you have to prepare yourself to listen. Sit close to the front of the classroom so you can hear the teacher and see the board well. If necessary, avoid seats near a window or close to your friends so your attention doesn’t get diverted. Leave your cell phone and other distracting items in your book bag.

Let Go of Biases and Assumptions

It’s normal to have opinions and judgments. To be an effective listener, you must have an open mind because biases and assumptions can block your ability to listen well, according to the U.S. Air Force’s Air University. An example of bias may be to have the belief that people who speak with an accent are uneducated. Or, you may assume that anything that has to do with molecular biology is boring or too hard to understand. To be a good listener, you don’t necessarily have to change your mind about your opinions. You just can’t let your opinions become a barrier to obtaining information.

Recognize Cues

When you attend lectures, most professors provide clues about the information that they think is the most important. You may hear a cue in the form of a statement such as, “The three most important … ” or “Can someone tell me what … ?” A professor may also provide a cue by pausing between points so you have enough time to write notes. The cues that teachers use vary by person, so it’s important to pay attention to each individual style of communication.

Enhance Your Understanding

It is your responsibility to understand the material presented. Air University says the most effective listeners in college are those who share the learning experience and responsibility with a professor. To this end, if you don’t understand a concept presented, ask clarifying questions. Don’t be afraid to ask a professor to repeat herself or provide further explanation, even if you need to take the time to do this outside of the classroom.

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About the Author

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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