Ask Questions in Class

It’s not always easy to speak up when you have a question in class. You might be too nervous to talk in front of others, or forget what you were going to say when you become flustered. You’re not alone—many students have an aversion to public speaking, especially when they think it might make them look foolish. Since asking for more information is key to improving your understanding of a given subject, it can be helpful to know how to ask the right way. If you’re unable to find an answer yourself, wait for a timely opening, then pose a specific question in a loud, clear tone of voice.


Getting the Teacher's Attention

  1. Wait for the right time. Most teachers give their students a chance to bring up questions and concerns at the end of a lesson. Hold onto your question until you’re prompted for it. That way, your teacher will be able to reach a good stopping point and give you a detailed answer.
    • Familiarize yourself with the way things are normally done in your classroom. Your teacher might encourage students to ask questions during the lesson, or they may prefer that you save them for a designated time.
    • If the teacher doesn’t invite questions, wait for a pause before asking.
  2. Raise your hand. This is the most common and courteous way of letting your teacher know that you have a question. Raising your hand lets you signal quietly so that you don’t interrupt the lesson or disturb your classmates. It will also help you get noticed in a room full of students.[1]
    • Keep your hand up until your teacher acknowledges you. They may not see you right away.
    • Don’t wave your arm around in an effort to be seen. This can be very distracting.
  3. Tell the teacher you have a question. If your teacher fails to notice that you have your hand up, you can politely alert them before you get left behind in the lesson. Simply say “excuse me,” or get their attention by saying their name. Wait until you’re called on before you begin talking.[2]
    • Be respectful. Pestering or talking over your teacher will just make you look like you’re trying to cause a scene.

Asking Good Questions

  1. See if you can come up with the answer yourself. You may already have the information you need to find out what it is you want to know. Before you ask a question, think it over and make sure it’s something you can’t find out on your own. Review your textbook and notes and look for the answer there.
    • Learning to search for answers independently can improve your study habits and make you more resourceful.
    • It can be somewhat embarrassing to ask a question when the answer is right in front of you.
  2. Calm your nerves. A lot of students tend to be shy about asking questions, but there’s no reason to be. Think of questions as a tool you can use to make learning more effective. Even if the answer is a simple one, the fact that you had the presence of mind to ask will show that you’re engaged with the course material.[3]
    • Chances are, someone else in the class has the same question and is too timid bring it up.[4]
    • Once you’ve gotten comfortable expressing yourself in class, you’ll be more confident about asking questions in the future.[5]
  3. Speak in a clear, audible voice. Articulate your words and make sure the teacher and the rest of the class can hear you. That way, you won’t be forced to repeat yourself.
    • You should talk loud enough to be heard clearly, but try not to shout.
    • Muttering or talking under your breath may make you hard to hear.
  4. Keep your question brief. There’s no need to ramble on and on or preface the question with other sorts of statements. Make it short and to the point. Your teacher will be better able to answer you, and you won’t lose any important class time.[6]
    • To avoid confusion, the first thing you say should be a key question word: who, what, where, when, why or how.
  5. Ask for specific information. Point out exactly what you need clarified. This could be anything from a particular date, figure or spelling to more involved questions like the meaning of an idiom or a breakdown of the individual steps in a biological process. The key is to word your question carefully so that you can receive the information you’re missing.[7]
    • “What year did the French Revolution start?” is a better question than “when was that, again?”
    • You could also phrase your question as a request—for instance, “could you spell that?” or “would it be possible to see that previous slide again?”
    • Avoid asking questions that are vague or open-ended.
  6. Listen attentively to the answer. Look directly at the teacher while they’re answering you, or take notes so that you can look them over later. Nod occasionally to indicate that you understand what you’re being told. Once the answer has been explained satisfactorily, thank the teacher.[8]
    • If you’re still having trouble grasping something, ask the teacher for clarification before you move on.
    • Don’t interrupt or let your eyes wander around the room. This could be considered rude.

Finding Other Ways to Ask

  1. Save multiple questions for after class. There may not be enough time to answer all of your questions, especially if it’s near the end of the period and other students have questions of their own. In these cases, you can approach your teacher after class and have them clear up anything you’re still uncertain about.[7]
    • Lay out your questions one at a time so your teacher will have an easier time answering them.
    • College students can also schedule an appointment to speak to their professors during office hours.[9]
  2. Write down questions you have about homework. Make a list of difficult problems and concepts that you encounter in your out-of-class assignments. You may discover the answer on your own as you continue studying. If not, you can get your teacher to address these questions before the beginning of the following class period.[8]
    • Identifying ideas you don't understand will help you do better on future assignments.
    • Show up a little early for the next class so you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your questions in depth.
  3. Email the question instead. If you just can’t overcome your anxiety of speaking in class, it’s okay to type your question out in a message. Email is convenient because you can one anytime a question arises, whether you’re in class or not. You’ll still get the same response, and you’ll have the freedom to check back for an answer throughout the day.[10]
    • Put the main idea of the question in the email’s subject line so that your teacher will know what to expect from your message.
    • If time is a factor (such as right before a big exam), be sure to send your email well enough in advance to ensure that you’ll receive a reply in time.
    • Another benefit of email is that you can archive it and look it over later should you happen to forget the answer.


  • Don’t hesitate to ask a question whenever there’s something you don’t understand.
  • If you think you might forget your question before you get a chance to ask it, jot it down in your notes.
  • Stay on topic. In order to avoid overcomplicating things, try to only ask questions about the subject you’re currently studying.
  • If another students teases you for asking a question, just laugh it off. The most important thing is that you're learning.


  • Direct your questions at the teacher, not your friends or fellow students. You could get in trouble for carrying on conversations during class.

Sources and Citations

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