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Note-taking Strategies

In college you will learn that you need to use all of your time both in and out of class wisely.  While you are in class, you can make the most of your time by taking notes.  A few reasons as to why taking notes are so important are:

  • Notes provide the best indication of what information is most likely going to be on the exam.
  • Taking notes helps the student be able to identify the main ideas of the lecture.
  • Taking notes help keep the students’ attention focused on the lecture which increases their retention and understanding of the material.
  • Notes provide a great study aid for review.

It may seem obvious, but without staying organized your class notes may not be very helpful to you.  You should keep all of your notes for each class together in one place, as well as date each class’s notes so that it is easier to refer back to.  To stay as organized as possible you need to think about what you need to do before, during and after class.


  • Make sure that you have all of your materials (notebook, pen, textbook, etc.)
  • Have all readings and assignments completed so that you will understand what the instructor is talking about in class
  • Bring a list of questions/comments that you have from the previous assigned work
  • Review your notes from the previous class


  • Listen for the instructor’s key ideas
  • Use abbreviated phrases, do not try to write everything down word for word
  • Take notes in an outline form
  • Copy information that is written or projected on the board or PowerPoint slides
  • Highlight, underline, or star anything you think are important ideas or concepts that may be on the exam
  • Pay attention to points the instructor makes at the end of the lecture
  • Ask any questions that you may have


  • Review your notes as soon as you can after class (best results are within 24 hours)
  • Fill in any blanks you may have in your notes
  • If you are confused about something in your notes go to a classmate or the instructor for clarification
  • Rewrite your notes so that they are neat and arranged in a way that is most meaningful to you.
  • Evaluate your notes to see if there is a different or better way that you could take notes for the next class period

One of the main problems that students face when trying to take notes is that their instructor talks too fast for them to write anything down.  Here are a few tips to help you with any fast-talking instructors:

  • Focus your attention mainly on key points the instructor makes.  Choose what you think is the most important.

  • Exchange notes with others in your class.  Maybe they wrote something that you missed or vice versa.

  • Leave empty spaces in your notes so that you can go back to them after class and fill them in.

  • Go to the instructor after class to ask him/her what you missed and ask if they could slow down some.

  • Take detailed notes on your reading.

  • Ask the instructor if you could bring a tape recorder into class.  But this should only be used as a last resort.

  • Ask the instructor if there is another class that you could attend to hear the lecture for a second time. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Note-taking:



·  Look over notes before class ·  Sit near friends or other distractions
·  Attend all lectures ·  Write down only facts and definitions
·  Sit up straight and pay attention ·  Doodle on your notes too much
·  Sit near the front so that you can see
   and hear clearly
·  Consider any example the instructor 
   gives you as too obvious
·  Use a loose-leaf binder ·  Use spiral bound notebooks
·  Keep your notes neat and                 
   organized so you can understand  
   them later
·  Just wait for something important, write 
   as much as you can
·  Use too many abbreviations
·  Record examples the instructor 
·  Keep separate binders for each 
·  Include your own thoughts in your 
·  Capture the lecturer’s ideas as well 
   as facts

Another Note-taking Resource:  Note Taking Help | Free Note Taking Strategy Tips

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