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Top 10 Note-Taking Tips

#1 Don’t overdo it

When taking notes make sure that you focus on the important information.  Instead of just writing everything down, not all information is needed or even important.

#2 Ask Questions

If you do not understand the information provided in your course, don’t ever hesitate to ask questions.  It is better to understand the information provided during the lecture, then to not understand the lecture information provided and fail the exam.

#3 Keep Notes Simple

By using methods like rhymes, acronyms and my personal  favorites mapping  and of course folding the paper in half and creating an outline on the right hand side, while placing the notes on the left.

#4 Compare Notes

It is okay when working as a group or even when you are not working as a group to compare notes.  This gives you the assurance that you are a) on the same page as your other classes and b) that you are focusing and grasping the key points or information needed to be successful in the course as well.

#5 Write down key facts

Most professors or teachers will let you know by giving hints, using characters such as checks or even *’s to distinguish key points.  So it is very important to take these points in consideration while studying since about 90% of the key points is on the exam.

#6 Re-write your notes

This helps keep the information fresh in your mind, I find that if I re-write my notes a few times it is easier for me to remember the information for the exam.

#7 Stay organized

I find myself unorganized at times and writing notes everywhere, so with that in mind.  It is very important to stay organized the simplest way to do so is to use one notebook.  That is the best way to go J

#8 Tape record your lecture

I love to do this because it is so important to make sure I do not miss any important information or key points.    Plus it is just nice to have the information again as a refresher and also because you never know what information you may have missed during the lecture.

#9 Use colors

I love to use colors pens and highlighters it makes it easier to distinguish key points, notes and other information that is important for the course.

#10 Review notes right after class

This is so important to keep the information fresh in your mind.  What I normally do is just read the notes swiftly almost like skimming through the pages of the book.    It makes it easier for me to comprehend the information and like always it keeps the information fresh in my mind.  This is the best method for retaining information that is useful in the course.  For math related courses I like to redo the questions over and over, that way I understand the formula as well as the concept.


betterintheory's picture


Great tips, it all seems like really obvious stuff to do, but it's also all stuff that is easily slacked on throughout the day in, day out of a semester. Rewriting your notes is a great idea. During class, it's really easy to write unimportant things down, and after class review helps you realize what is necessary to keep and what's trash. But my big thing is organization. I will take great notes, highlight the book and everything else, but then when test time comes it's just a great big mess. Starting out organized is the key. It's much easier to keep your notes organized than try to make an order from chaos at the last minute.

amjmusic's picture

These are some good tips and

These are some good tips and a lot of them are things that are obvious. But I think we would all be surprised at the number of people that don't do these things when note-taking.

It's also important, though, to make sure you are using the note-taking strategies that are best for your learning type. For example, I am a visual learner so make sure to highlight and use visual charts or maps. Outlines don't work that great for me, though.

Some good types of note-taking strategies are mapping, charting, and outlining. Mapping is the use of arrows and lines, connecting useful and related subjects or points. Charting keeps your notes very organized because you can separate the main points from the details. Charting is probably my favorite form of note-taking because I can fit the charts well on note cards for studying material.

Also, you can outline which I'm sure most of you have heard of and done in high school. You have main points, details and supporting details. It's important to experiment and figure out which of these strategies is best for you so that you can take effective notes and retain information better.

All of your tips were great tips, too! Organization is one big key to note taking!!

iracquel's picture

Perhaps the most important of

Perhaps the most important of the tips you have given is the last one. Reviewing notes after the lecture is very important if you intend to make sense of your notes. It keeps the knowledge fresh in your memory. As a result, you will not have to struggle with remembering things as you read for your midterms. This offloads most of the stress that comes with preparation for midterms and final exams. In fact, reviewing your notes right after the lecture might save you from all-nighters and the stress that accompanies the final's week. This is indeed a true and tested method, and it has worked for many, including me.

Another point that I would like to state is that as you take notes, don't focus on your notes only, as you might be missing vital information as the lecture progresses. Often, I see students taking notes from power point slides that will obviously be posted on the course page right after class. I often see this as a repetition, and it is time wasting. After a few weeks in college, I have learnt not to take notes on the power points. Instead, I always take note of what the lecturer is saying because most of his explanations is not in the power point slides. As a side note, I write down the slide number. Say, if the lecture made an important note concerning slide number 2, my notes would appear as follows:

S2: Whatever important comments the lecturer made, but note that I do not write the content of the slide because the slides will be in the course page.

This is just something I learnt in my freshman year. It helps me keep track of the lecture while writing only important things, rather than struggling to write everything that is on the power point slide. This tip is very helpful....try it and see how effective your note taking will be!

Mercer Smith's picture

re: note taking.

Oh man, my favorite thing ever is color-coding notes. I found that when I went back to study it was totally helpful and really made my life so much easier. I think that there are a lot of people that just don't know how to take notes and end up failing or doing really badly because of it, so I appreciated the time that you took to make this list.

When I was in undergrad I remember so many people used to sit around me and ask how I knew how to take such good notes. I would tell them that, honestly, it was just a habit that I had built up, and that I felt productive when I looked through my notebooks from school and saw so much information. I also think that keeping notes is an important habit to have if you are planning on pursuing an even higher degree than your bachelors. Now that I am almost done with my masters, I still have all of the binders of notes that I took from all of those courses, and there hasn't been a month that went past that I haven't taken them down and looked at them! Note taking for the win!