Take note: how to become an effective note-taker.

Updated: Feb 15

Note-taking skills are often overlooked, but they are a very crucial part of an effective study plan. Taking notes is a very personal practice. It may take some time to figure our your style, but here I provide some tips that can help you get started.


Closeup of a hand holding a computer mouse next to a keyboard and a partial view of a laptop. In the background, there is a partial view, out-of-focus view of a person sitting in front of a desk.

Write, don't type. It forces you to be concise. When you type, you're more likely to write things down verbatim without internalizing what you are writing.


Choose your method. Will you write notes using a tablet, lecture note printouts, a notebook or note-taking sheets?



Preparing BEFORE your lecture


♡ Go over your lecture notes and/or slides if your instructor provides them to you ahead of time. Read the corresponding textbook chapters if you have time.


♡ Don't worry about memorizing any information. Instead, try to get a general idea of the concepts that will be covered. If you have any major questions at this point, write them down.


♡ If you are completely lost and do not understand any of the material, you may want to review previous lecture material. Otherwise, you may have a hard time keeping up.


Taking notes during lecture


♡ Come prepared. Bring any materials you may need for note-taking. Highlighters and sticky-notes can be very helpful for note-taking. Tablets generally have these options as well.


♡ Minimize distractions. Avoid sitting next to chatty classmates. Find a spot that allows you to focus. Generally, students tend to pay most attention at the front of the classroom.


♡ Always write down the date, course, chapter number and lecture title.


♡ Try to be concise and use abbreviations whenever possible. Do not worry about your notes looking perfect. They do have to legible though.


♡ Do not write everything down and do not rewrite anything that is already on the slides/lecture notes. Focus on any additional material that the instructor provides.


♡ Write down any examples or hints that your instructor may provide.


♡ If your instructor spends a long time explaining a concept or going through an example, make note of this. It generally means the material is very important. You can put a sticky note or draw a big star/symbol next to it.


♡ Write down any questions you may have or put a question mark next to concepts that are still unclear to you. Try to get clarification during lecture or right after if possible.


Reviewing your notes after lecture


♡ Review your notes no later than 24 hours after your lecture.


♡ You can make your notes more presentable by adding subtitles, colour and extra notes. Some people also choose to rewrite their notes in a different format, as it helps them study.


♡ You can colour-code your notes after lecture. You can use different highlighters or pens to distinguish important terms, equations, dates and examples. This is particularly helpful if you are a visual learner.


♡ Complete your notes. Add any extra examples or information that may be useful for studying purposes.


♡ If you still have any question marks on your notes, try to find the answer and write them out. You can use sticky notes for this.


♡ Stay organized. Keep your notes in a binder or folder arranged by chapter or date.

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