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Guide to Understanding University Lingo

lecture lingo

So you’re now a young adult starting uni, but hang on a second, are you confused by university lingo?  What on earth are the differences between Lectures, Practicals, Seminars and Tutorials…?

Let’s start with Lectures


Lectures are pretty much the same for most subjects and have the largest number of people out of all your classes. Usually, a lecture consists of the Lecturer giving an oral presentation with projected slides, where you listen and take notes.  You don’t interact during Lectures, save that for the other classes.

Lectures are to give you a broad overview of the module and you normally have an hour’s lecture a  week for each module (dependant on the subject). For many subjects, lectures are not compulsory, but I strongly encourage you to attend as you will struggle without getting the first-hand information.

Copies of slides can usually be found on the student gateway Durham University Online DUO, for reference, after the lecture.

Preparing for Practicals

lecturesPracticals are smaller than lectures (around 20 people) and you participate in discussions, more like school. Depending on the subject you study your practical could be in a lab or in a computer room. The practical leader will lead the session, but you can find out what you’ll be doing in advance or if there is any necessary reading or research required,  by checking the module handbook on student gateway DUO.

Not every subject has practical’s – it depends on the modules you take, you may have seminars or tutorials instead. Practicals are compulsory to attend but may not be every week, you may only have a Practical once a fortnight, or once a month – so make a note so you don’t forget!

Onto Seminars and Tutorials

lecturesSeminars and tutorials are similar to practicals in that they are compulsory. They are designated for students to talk about specific topics in modules in detail, so students have to take an active part.  Usually involving smaller groups than lectures, in smaller rooms with fewer people, seminars and tutorials allow easy discussion of topics and ideas.

You usually have seminars or tutorials for each module, normally 1 hour a week, but like practicals, this could be once a fortnight or once a month – so again make a note of when you have them in your calendar!

Sometimes tutors will lead the class discussion, or choose students to make a presentation. If you are making a presentation you will need to prepare, doing the necessary reading and possibly a bit of research beforehand.

Preparation is key

lecturesSo now you know the difference between lectures, practicals, seminars and tutorials, the one piece of advice I would offer is, whatever study session you are preparing for, don’t be afraid to contact your tutors with any questions you might have. They are on hand to help and easy to reach by email – best to be prepared and do the homework!


Gabriel Callaghan

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