This guide is created to aid you in improving your listening skills.


Listening Skill is the ability to pay attention to and effectively interpret what other people are saying. Attentive listeners are usually good learners. Unfortunately, many students have poor listening skills, which can be very problematic because students spend considerable time in classrooms listening to lectures during college.

Many students believe they are good listeners, unfortunately they don't fully appreciate the difference between hearing and listening. Attentive listeners not only hear, they effectively process the information presented to them. This guide aims at helping students improve their listening skills.

Focusing on Meaningful Messages

Listening for meaning is a form of active listening. Active and attentive listeners not only pay attention to words, they also focus on the intent of each word–the message a word is intended to communicate. To decipher messages, first determine the central idea being communicated. Then pay close attention to anecdotes, explanations, and other details meant to clarify meaning.

While you work to improve listening skills, always pay close attention to the central focus of what is being relayed. One of the keys of effective listening is the ability to concentrate on central ideas and main focuses. It is a mistake to only be concerned about facts and extemporaneous detail during a lecture.

In other words, effective listeners focus on the stories or ideas behind the facts. They then are able to pick up on the supporting fact, details and evidence for the main concepts, ideals and topics being discussed.

People who struggle with listening often have a difficult time concentrating. Good listeners must work to develop the ability to concentrate and ignore distractions. This requires the ability to tune out personal worries, thoughts about family members and friends, and thoughts about upcoming activities. Those who can hone the ability to concentrate can improve listening skills.

Many people tune out lectures because they're bored or disinterested. As a result, they neglect to take notes on key concepts. Effective listeners become interested in the subject material, so they can process the information and pay attention to classroom lectures.Focusing on Meaningful Messages.

Taking Notes While Listening

Ineffective listeners often attempt to jot down every detail from a lecture. They are under the impression that a detailed outline equates to good notes.

Students who utilize this strategy often get discouraged when they review their notes only to find the breadth, detail and lack of focus in their note-taking. This is confusing and leaves them unable to identify central themes and important topics.

Effective listeners adapt their note-taking to the teaching styles of their teachers and lectures. They focus on central ideas and jot down details that expand on, or clarify, the central concepts of a lecture. If you do not complete required reading or review notes from previous lectures prior to class, it is very difficult to process information and attentively listen to lectures.

This is why you should never neglect to complete reading or other class assignments. Attending a lecture prepared provides you the background knowledge required to be an effective listener–and an effective student.

HEAR Strategy

The HEAR strategy consists of these four steps:

  • Halt: Stop whatever else you are doing, end your internal dialogue on other thoughts, and free your mind to pay attention to the lecturer.
  • Engage: Focus on the lecturer. We suggest a physical component, such as turning your head slightly so that your right ear is toward the lecturer as a reminder to be engaged solely in listening.
  • Anticipate: By looking forward to what the lecturer has to say, you are acknowledging that you will likely learn something new and interesting, which will enhance your attention.
  • Replay: Think about what the lecturer is saying. Analyze and paraphrase it in your mind or in discussion with the lecturer and other classmates.

Replaying the information will aid in understanding and remembering what you have learned.


The way to improve your listening skills is to practice "active listening." This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent. Following strategies will help you be an attentive listener:

  • Listen for meaning;
  • Take short, clear and meaningful note while listening;
  • Develop curiosity, an open mind, and a desire for learning;
  • Concentrate and pay attention;
  • Be prepared;
  • Focus on what's important;
  • Choose to be interested;
  • Follow the HEAR strategy.

Video Resources

Learn how to listen effectively

Active Listening Tips

How To Improve Your Listening Skills