La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library




How to improve your listening skills

  • Prepare yourself to listen:
    • Stop talking. Think about what the lecture will be about.
  • Concentrate:
    • The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, it might rain soon. Focus only on the information being communicated.
  • Don’t doodle:
    • scribble, shuffle papers, look out the window or file your nails. These behaviours disrupt the listening process, disturb others, and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.
  • Try to be impartial:
    • Don't let the speaker’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what they are saying. Everybody has a different way of speaking - some people are nervous or shy, some have regional accents or make excessive arm or hand movements, some people like to pace whilst talking, others like to sit still. Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.
  • Listen to the tone:
    • ‚ÄčA good speaker will use both volume and tone to keep an audience attentive. These changes in emphasis will help you to understand what is most important about what is being said.
  • Listen for ideas not just words:
    •  You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.
  • Do not jump to conclusions about what you have heard:
    •  You should always seek clarification to ensure that your understanding is correct. Ask if you are not sure.

Activity 1.  Listening for specifics

This website has listening quizzes for academic purposes.

Video: Active Listening

Practising "active listening" is a good way to improve your listening skills. You make a conscious effort to hear what the other person is saying, by paying close attention to them and not allowing yourself to be distracted.

Listening in Lectures

One of the main ways in which information is communicated at university is through lectures. Lectures highlight and reinforce essential knowledge in particular disciplines, guide your reading and research and stimulate your interest in the subject.

Tips for active listening:

  • Sit in the first few rows of the lecture room as it will be easier to focus on the lecture from this position.
  • For online podcasts, sit at your desk rather than lounge on the bed.
  • Make sure you have a note pad, laptop or other electronic device and take down notes throughout the lecture. Taking notes makes you concentrate!
  • Don't write every word from every Powerpoint slide. See the Note-taking section for further information.
  • Listen carefully in the first 5 minutes of the lecture as the lecturer will often outline the purpose of the lecture and map what they intend to cover. This orients you to the topic and gives you a broad overview of the material.

If you feel that your attention is wandering, become more actively involved by thinking about a question that might need to be addressed or focus on what you have learned by summing up what has already been covered.

Activity 1. Listening for clues

The language and style of lecturers contain various clues that can help you understand how the ideas and information in the lecture are linked together.

Activity 2 on this site involves listening to a lecture section then matching sentences to a description of the type of sentence (eg. signaling, emphasising, introducing, giving examples).

Optimise your listening

It's difficult to stay focused when you're listening for long periods of time, especially to detailed information. However, there are some strategies you can use to get the most out of what's being presented. 

Activity 1. Listening skills audit

Assess your listening skills and receive advice on how you can improve your weaker areas.

Further resources

Improve your academic listening skills by listening to recorded lectures in Up Close. Try to understand the words, the expressions and simultaneously take notes. You can use the transcripts to check yourself and clarify your understanding: