How to Take Notes

To take notes in college can be so overwhelming! Knowing where to start and what to write down in a large lecture is incredibly difficult! I developed a strategy that worked really well for me; I get all the information I need, plus I learn it better. I’ve put together some do’s and don’t’s for good note taking, as well as my personal strategy.

I’m a 4.0 student, and I’ve taken so many different types of classes! I keep coming back to the same strategies that always seem to work for me. This isn’t the only way to take notes, but I know from my experience and the experience of others that this really helps! First, I’m going to share my personal note-taking strategy, and then some general tips for note taking.

I’m a fairly good notetaker; I write quickly and have learned to pick up on important information. To really learn my notes, I have a good system!

If my professors don’t post their lecture slides ahead of time, I take notes in a regular composition notebook in class. I use pencil so I’m able to erase quickly, but I just jot down every important thing I hear. For my professors that post their slides online for students to access, I make sure to print them out before class and take notes alongside the slides. This is ideal because you can really listen to the professor, instead of trying to write everything they say.

Within twenty-four hours of that class (because that’s when it’s still fresh on my mind!), I recopy my notes into a notebook designated for that class. Using the lecture slides and the book, I synthesize the information and format it in a way that makes sense. I use my favorite gel pens to organize different headings.

Re-drawing graphs and drawing conclusions really helps you study and let the information sink in. I also recommend re-writing things in your own words to make sure you really understand the material.

I utilize a title page in my notebooks for easier reference later on. It’s tedious at first to number the pages, but it’s so worth it!

It’s might seem like a lot of work to do notes this way, but it really saves you a long time when it comes to studying. These really work for me, and I hope they work for you, too! Now, I’ve got some basic tips that can help you overall in your note taking!

DON’T use your laptop to take notes. You can’t write down everything you need to, plus you’re less likely to be engaged with your professor if you’re sitting behind your screen.

DO hand-write your notes. Physically writing down your notes makes them stick better in your brain—it’s science. You can also add doodles, examples on the side, and format quickly.

DON’T write every thing down. Your professors will say a lot, but it’s important not to write whole sentences or their long ramblings.

DO make lists and bullet points. Pick out the important information and jot it down. If you don’t catch something, star it and ask your professor after class.

DON’T go crazy with highlighting, formatting, or switching colors. This gets confusing and overwhelming during class.

DO emphasis important things. If a professor repeats something, writes it down, or specifically points it out, make sure to underline/highlight/circle it so you remember its importance!

What’s your system for taking notes? Do you think my system would work for you?