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Transkills: supporting transition to University


Lectures are not compulsory in the Faculty. However, it is vital you do attend a good many, while exercising your own judgement as to which ones are valuable to you.

Which lectures should I attend?

  • Although you can attend every lecture if you want to, we suggest that you focus your time especially on the Core Lectures that are offered for each Part I paper, and then add to that if you have the time and/or a particular interest
  • When choosing a lecture or lecture series to attend, ask your supervisors about the lectures you are interested in; what ground do they cover? How do they relate to other lectures?
  • Shop around; try a few different lectures as they start and see how you find them. HOWEVER don't just go to the first lecture and then dismiss it; you ought to attend at least the first two or three lectures in a course to really get the feel of the topic, the lecturer and the way that lecture fits into your schedule.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when choosing lectures to attend. The first is that very often the lecture course and what you study in supervisions will not match; because of the constraints of timetabling lectures and the choice of topics you have available to you in lectures, it would be impossible to link subjects together across the Faculty. This is one feature of being at Cambridge that many disciplines suffer from, and it is up to you to 'join the dots'.

Another thing to consider is that the exams may not be set by your supervisors, so attending lectures to hear about a potential exam paper from the person who may be setting the exam paper will give you an outline of the topic and stand you in good stead when it comes to revising.

Why do I need to attend lectures?

Good lectures (and, ok, not all lectures are good) can be an enriching supplement to reading because they can be more vital than a book.

They can be better than a book because:

  • you gain a better overview of the topic
  • you hear about material not available in books; remember that your lecturers will be leaders in their field, so often you get an insight into a topic directly from someone researching the field
  • they are exciting, responsive and evocative experiences

It is a chance to experience good rhetoric:

  • an opportunity to hear how someone passionate about their topic talks to an audience about their field
  • the skills involved in good public speaking and the art of persuasion
  • the tricks in keeping an audience interested in a topic

Pay close attention to these rhetorical skills because you will be asked during your course to give mini-lectures and seminars. Learning good oral skills is vital for all careers (and arguably Cambridge places too much emphasis on purely written exams).