Taking Notes

Taking Notes is Critical for Success

If you are going to be successful in University or College, you have to take notes and study them.  When preparing for College Exams, notes are one of the best study tools.

Your Notebook
Don’t underestimate the organizational power of your class notebook. It’s an excellent spot to arrange your class information in a way that formation that is easiest for you to understand. Learn to take great study notes in your notebook and take care not to lose it!  See our post on essential
Choosing a Notebook
The best type of notebook is a binder type with rings that allows you to add loose leaf paper. This way you can organize your notes and move pages around. You can even choose to get a binder notebook that has a zip fastener, which makes it even easier to carry around. A good size for a binder notebook is 8 ½ x 11 because if fits standard sized loose leaf paper
A loose leaf binder notebook also allows you to remove old notes from the notebook to make it less cumbersome to carry around. .Just remember to file your notes so that you can review them at a later date if you ever need to. Use a folder or an accordion filing system to keep old notes organized.

Stick to plain paper

The best type of paper for taking notes is plain paper. Your notes will show up clearer on plain, rather than printed or colored paper.

Taking good study notes
When taking study notes remember to write down just the main points of what is being said, and write it in whatever way you will be most likely to remember. These are your study notes, so there is no wrong way, as long as you understand it.

Dating and labeling your notes
Writing the date and labeling the subject of your class on all your notes is a great habit to get into though.

Listen up!
Learning to write down a point in a lecture that a teacher just said, while you are still listening to the next point can be confusing, and it takes practice. Eventually you will perfect your note taking skills. Stay focused during class, and read over your notes after class. You can elaborate on your notes if something jogs your mind.

Identifying key words

Keep an ear open for key words within a lecture. They will give you a hint as to the main focus of the class and hints on what is important to study.

Identifying main topics
Once you have determined the main topic of a class, make note of it. Then you can start looking for the sub-topics. These topics should be well marked and underlined in your notes. Details on these topics which are discussed in class can be organized under these sections.

Write notes in your own words
When writing notes, don’t worry about copying exactly what your teacher says. It’s best to write your notes in your own words. They will be easier for you to study from.

Don’t waste time repeating facts
You don’t have to bother writing the same facts over and over again in your notes, even if your teacher tends to repeat a point. But make sure you write a fact down, even if you feel like you understand it. You don’t want to have to rely on your memory when it comes time for a test. It’s best to have the facts down in your study notes so they can be reviewed later. Do your best to get all the main facts down in your notes.

Don’t worry about complete sentences
When taking study notes don’t worry about sentence structure or punctuation. Jot down notes in list form, with bullets, or in number form. Facts can be much easier to study if they are listed rather than written in paragraph form. Just remember when it comes time to write long answer tests you’ll have to go back to paying attention to grammar and punctuation.

Find what works for you
Find a style of note taking that works best for you. It doesn’t matter if no one else can decipher what your abbreviations stand for, or what symbols mean. As long as you can remember what it means then your study notes are doing the trick.

Look over your notes regularly
It’s a good idea to read over your notes regularly. If you put notes away until the end of term, when you have to review for an exam, you might forget some of the details of a lesson from your notes alone. By regularly reviewing notes you can keep the main points of a subject fresh in your head.

It’s also a good idea to leave space at the end of your notes so you can add more material when it’s time for review.

Organize class notes
Get in the habit of writing more detailed study notes from class notes. You can elaborate on points made in a lecture when you’ve got more time, remembering to underline the main topic discussed in the class, as well as the sub-topics, and the key words.  See our post on Using Flashcards and using Index cards

Extra reading
It’s worth it to do a little extra reading in a subject. Your study notes will have more meaning if you take it upon yourself to read more on the subject. You can elaborate on what you have learned in class and it will not only allow you to do well in class it will also carry on into your future education.

Reading techniques
When you read notes make sure you adjust the speed of your reading to the material you are reading. You can read a sports article a lot faster than a history text book. A book you read for pleasure is a lot different than an essay in which you need to remember specific facts.

Don’t mouth the words

When you read, don’t get into the bad habit of mouthing the words as you go along. This will slow you down. It is ok to do this once in a while, if your are trying to understand an unfamiliar arrangement of words, but for the most part, it’s a reading technique that reduces the speed.

Think about what you are reading
Make sure when you are reading you are actually taking in the information and are not just running your eyes along the words. Be an active thinker while you read. Stop occasionally to take in what you are reading. See if you can answer questions about the text like:

Does the author know what he is talking about?
What is the point of this article? Am I convinced that this person is right?
Who did the author write this piece for?
When was this information written and when was it published?

Scan a section before you read it
It’s a good idea to scan over a long section of writing before reading it. You might decide that that particular passage can be read quickly and doesn’t have to be intensively read. On the other hand you may want to re-read certain sections of a chapter that is particularly important.

Whenever you read a textbook assignment remember to always read the title and the subtitle. It will give you an idea of the main theme. See if you can turn the title into a question and try to answer it from the information you learned in the previous chapter.

Once you’ve finished a chapter review it by asking yourself questions about the information. Come up with your own tests and see how you do. It will give you an idea about how much of the information you understand, and how much you will need to study later.

Pay attention to Visuals
It’s important, while you’re reading chapters, to pay attention to graphs, tables and illustrations. There’s often tons of information here and it can be an easy way to memorize important facts. Sometimes, however the illustrations are a waste of time. Don’t get side tracked by these distractions.

The importance of memorization
When preparing for an exam it is important to memorize the material. You will be prepared for the exam if you memorize the notes taken in your classes from each lesson. Remember to stop after reviewing each lesson to give yourself a little test. When memorizing information for an exam, don’t bother memorizing long explanations, just stick to the main topics and sub-topics. If you’ve taken good notes, the topics and subtopics should be underlined which will give you clues about the main points you need to memorize.   Memorization Tips Using Mnemonics

Giving yourself clues
With practice you will become more skilled in your note taking and will be able to write effective clues in your notes that will jog your memory to lots of key facts. Study clues work as reminders to trigger a whole set of information. With practice you will know which clues work best for you.

For more information on different styles of taking notes

Split Page Method
Outline Method
Cornell Method

For more information on Taking Notes, see our How to Study Ebook


  1. Theresa

    I was so confused about what to buy, but this makes it understandable.

  2. Ival

    Going to put this artcile to good use now.

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