Steps for Good Note-Taking

Not sure what to expect from your college courses? One thing’s for sure, taking good notes will be a big part of your preparation and success.

Getting Ready for Class

Prepare before you go. Make sure you’ve read or at least skimmed the material. Do whatever is necessary to familiarize yourself with the topic. You’ll find that it will make note-taking much easier.

Pack well for taking notes. Check to make sure you have pencils, pens, highlighters, notebook paper, sticky notes and your laptop.

Arrive rested and eat a meal or snack beforehand. Feeling distracted by feeling tired or hungry makes it difficult to concentrate and take good notes.

Most importantly, arrive to class with an interest in learning and a positive attitude. Doing so will keep you engaged in the topic and help you absorb the information.

When you arrive in class, choose a seat that will allow you to clearly hear the instructor and minimize distractions.

Taking Notes in Class

Before the lecture begins, write down the date and number your pages of notes as you go. Every time you attend a new lecture, start with a new page.

As you take notes, leave room on the page so you can add/emphasize key details of the lecture. Make note of key ideas or those that the professor repeats. When this happens, it’s a good indication it will be on a future test.

Also, think as you write your notes. Don’t try to write down every word the professor says. Instead, summarize the main topics and ideas. Try to focus on the points from the assigned reading. It’s also a good idea to listen to verbal cues for important information.

In addition to taking notes, write down any questions you might have about the material. That way, you can find answers to any potential gaps in information.

Find a note-taking system that works well for you. Consider using an outline, charts, a mind map, or numbered paragraphs. Learn about these options and pick one that you think will work best for your learning. And make sure that your notes are clear and easy to read.

After class, take some time to review your notes and highlight the most important information. You may also find ways to supplement what you initially wrote down through what you heard in the lecture.

Reviewing Your Notes Before a Test

Here are some ways to help you better retain the information in your notes prior to taking a test:

  • Rewrite or re-type your notes.
  • Create 3×5 cards or flashcards.
  • Review with someone else.
  • Make copies of a peer’s notes and review both.
  • Review your text and insert information into your notes in provided blank spaces.
  • Create sample test questions from the lecture material.
  • Create a review sheet or guide from notes.
  • Write a summary and list of main points to use as an exam review.
  • Review your notes with a tutor knowledgeable about the topic.
  • Ask your instructor for clarification on missed or confusing points.

Using these tips should help you be prepared for and ultimately master your college academics.