Tips for Effective Note Taking

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Taking notes can be challenging, especially when the material is complex or the professor talks fast. There are some important things to know about note taking that will simplify the process and help you to be more effective when taking notes in class.


Come to class having read your assignment and have questions ready. Doing this will help to put all of the information the professor gives during the class period in perspective. It will help you to better understand and follow along when you’re taking notes.


Don’t write down every word. Pay attention to key words the instructor says. For example, if you hear the phrase,”This is important.”, write it down. Also, if your instructor repeats certain information or gets excited about specific topics, it’s likely that information will be on the exam and is important to write down in your notes.


When taking notes, don’t try to squeeze everything onto the page. Leave some white space so that you can fill in any information you may miss later. Also, use only one side of the paper and keep your notes in a three ring binder. Doing this allows you to rearrange your notes and to add handouts in chronological order.

You can also use color to help keep things organized. Adding colored sticky tabs can highlighting important information and writing with different colored pens can help you develop a code system for different types of information. There are many ways to organize your notes as well, such as writing in outline form, using key words, drawing figures or diagrams, and using abbreviations. Be sure to be consistent with your abbreviations so you don’t become confused when reviewing your notes. There are many other ways to keep notes organized; these are a few suggestions to get you started.


What’s most important is that your system works for you. If you’re a visual learner, diagrams and symbols may be the way to go. If you learn by listening, maybe you want to bring a recorder to class. Just make sure it’s okay with your professor before doing so. Take your own study style into account when developing your note taking system.


Review your notes shortly after class. It’s been proven that information is best retained within the first day after receiving it. If you wait too long, it’s likely you’ll forget what you’ve learned. Reviewing your notes right away will allow you to fill in gaps you may have missed. You can also use the review time to be sure your notes are organized.

Taking notes is a skill. You will improve with time and practice. If you still feel unsure about your note taking skills, you may want to speak with your professor or get a tutor. An experienced student can give you lots of great tips.


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