How to Survive a Seminar You Haven’t Prepared For

It’s 10pm, you’ve just looked at your reading for tomorrow morning’s 10am lecture and it’s a huge list of books, articles and online journals that equate to more than 100 pages worth of reading. What do you do? You need to sleep, you’re tired and you just can’t be bothered! Or maybe you have tried, but cannot comprehend the writing and it’s getting really late.

As experts in procrastination and not getting all the reading done on time, we at Those London Students are here to help you out of this mess.

Tips for before the seminar:

  1. Don’t read everything – don’t even read every article. Base what to read on the number of pages if you can. If there’s an article less than 10 pages, read that one!
  2. Skim read if you don’t understand it. Read the introduction, then read the conclusion and finally read a synopsis online. If you still don’t understand the article, ring one of your friends and ask them what they thought of the article. Even if you both don’t understand it, it means there is a good chance no one else has either.
  3. Use Wikipedia, it’s your best friend. Don’t take it as gospel, but use it to look up events and topics that you’re studying to get the basic outline of what happened. This can count as ‘background reading’ instead of researching at the library. IMPORTANT: Don’t mention using Wikipedia to anyone ever. Your lecturer will not be impressed. It’s ok for seminars, but NEVER use it for an essay or something you have to submit.
  4. Make notes under the discussion question and have something that you are prepared to answer, even if it’s just a general outline of what key points the author made. Don’t make notes on everything, it will be a waste of time – some things might not be as relevant as you think they are.
  5. Buy/loan from the library a general textbook. We’re both history students and so for us, when there was a topic we knew nothing about, it was very easy just to get a “History of ______” textbook, which summarised the basic events. It’s very true that background reading helps you understand your lecture and seminar reading and you won’t feel as lost.

Tips for in the seminar:

  1. Re-read your reading notes after the lecture, they might make more sense now!
  2. Ask questions about topics, even if you don’t know what to say or what is going on, it will look like you are participating and the lecturer will like this.
  3. If you’re forced to talk and don’t understand much, say: “I agree with ____” and then elaborate on what they said.
  4. Be honest and say you didn’t understand the reading but that you attempted it. Mention parts of the lecture instead and comment on them.
  5. Talk to other people in your seminar group and share views about the reading.
  6. Relax. Not everyone is as smart as you make them out to be just because they’re answering questions. They too might be as confused about the lecture and the reading as you are.

I hope this helps you through your seminar! 🙂


2 thoughts on “How to Survive a Seminar You Haven’t Prepared For

  1. Pingback: How to Survive Christmas Out of the Capital « Those London Students

  2. Pingback: Making the Most of Freshers in London | Those London Students

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