How to Ask Better Questions

Regardless of where you are, learning about anything is about more than just passive listening. Instead, you have to ask questions and take an active role in your learning experience to fully comprehend the material. In order to optimize any situation, check out these tips:


Take Notes

During the lecture part of a course, seminar or training, you should take notes about the content. These notes can inspire questions, but you can also write questions within the notes. Having a highlighter to underline inquiries of particular interest allows you to quickly return to your unanswered questions when the time comes. Furthermore, having questions prepared can assist you in better articulating your thoughts and avoiding stuttering or rambling.


Listen to Questions from Other People

Most teachers or instructors have had the experience of repeated questions. Some audience members mentally doze off until they’re ready to get their personal questions answered. It’s tempting, but also not really the best idea. Asking better questions involves listening to the previous conversations, partly so you don’t repeat the same question, but also so you can build off of previous ones. If the material still isn’t clear, you ask for clarification, but asking the same exact question as someone else only indicates you weren’t paying attention. Not a good look.


Keep the Conversation Going

Two key strategies to asking useful questions are to offer open-ended inquiries and to provide follow-up questions. A brief response in the positive or negative is often not enough substance and doesn’t really provide opportunities to learn. It limits your answers, which is unhelpful if you don’t fully understand the topic. Allowing questions to turn into conversations is a wise way for people to learn.


Don’t Talk for the Sake of Talking

While some shy away from group discussions, others are overly eager to be involved. This level of eagerness can lead to an asking of meaningless, nonsensical questions. Yes, participation will help everyone around you, but you want to make sure it’s adding to the conversation. Essentially: don’t ask questions simply for the sake of talking. Questions should be authentic, and they should add meaning and value to the conversation.


Asking better questions will serve you in all aspects of your life, and not just in a classroom or staff meeting. Taking the time to thoughtfully prepare questions and to enter into a conversation are useful ways to expand upon your already-existing knowledge and to contribute to the understanding of the group as a whole.

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