Academic Seminars

Seminars for academic English students. What is a seminar? Seminar procedures and seminar practice lessons.

                        Seminar Phrases


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What is a seminar?

Generally, it is a small discussion on a specific topic among a group of students. At university it can be a central part of the learning process from lecturers creating seminars around pre-reading texts or post-lecture discussions. Commonly, at university English language centres seminars have become a feature of testing English speaking  though fluency, conversational skills and ability to discuss complex subjects.

Why have seminars?

  • explore topics in more depth
  • share ideas in a way that will advance your thinking
  • learn from other people's experiences and background knowledge
  • improve transferable skills for career development

Pre-seminar procedures

Students are often given pre-texts and pre-listenings before the seminar to prepare. Students are expected to read and listen to texts carefully by making detailed notes and come to the seminar fully prepared.

A Seminar Test - a seminar test usually...

  • Consists of 6 people (one can be nominated the chair person)
  • A set of questions
  • Lasts for 25-30minutes
  • The last 5 minutes summarise key points
  • Students CAN use their texts and notes

The seminar process

  • The group are called into a room and sit around a table.
  • The questions are given out and students have 3 minutes to read and prepare
  • The seminar begins with an opening statement - what you are here today to discuss?
  • The students then begin to discuss the first question.
  • Each student should make a contribution by referring to their notes  / texts.
  • The Seminar should flow with students adding to what was previously said.
  • Once everyone agrees this question has been addressed in full, then they move onto the next question.
  • Important:  not all the questions have to be answered but they should be discussed in order
  • Important: Sometimes choosing a chair person can create problems and it's better if the students run it collectively.
  • Once the students begin to approach 25 minutes they should bring it to an end by each one summarising a main point raised.

key points to a seminar

  • It should be a flowing conversation with everyone involved and contributing.
  • The teacher / tutor should not intervene if it goes quiet but let the students manage the discussion.
  • Students have to show confidence and demonstrate thorough awareness of texts.
  • Dominant students are penalised for not sharing and including others.
  • Grouping is important (careful consideration is needed on putting students in groups)
  • key debate phrases should be used  to should conversation skills -  agreeing, disagreeing, interrupting, etc...

Seminar Speaking Criteria

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Seminar Speaking Cards


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Seminar Lesson Download 

Independent Learning seminar

This worksheet is based on four videos. Students listen and take notes on the videos and then summarise their ideas on the worksheet. Using their new knowledge they formulate an Independent Learning action plan. With all this information they have a 20-30 minute seminar using a set of questions.  Videos Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1] 

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'Designer Babies' Seminar Discussion - 1x listening & 2x texts

This is an academic seminar discussion lesson. Students take notes on a short scientific lecture and two short texts. The students use these notes to take part in a 20 minute academic seminar. Example. Level: ***** [B2/C1/C2]  /  Video [05.05]  


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Teamwork Lesson - 1x reading, 1x activity & 1x listening.

This lesson develops an understanding of teamwork. The lesson includes a discussion, a reading on creating a good team, a FUN 'Marshmallow Challenge' team-building activity and a short TED Talk lecture worksheet based on the findings of the activity. Example. Level: ***** [B2/C1/C2]  /  Video [06:44] /  PPT


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Academic debating at university, debate phrases and key processes. Click here.


 Academic presentations, signposting language and delivery tips.  Click here.


Seminars are small group discussions. Seminar phrases and advice. Click here.

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