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Note Taking Tips

Before Class

  • Read and review materials before class. Look for main ideas by looking for headings or bolded words. Develop questions for class while you read the day's assignment.
  • Sit where you are most likely to pay attention.
  • Review the previous day's notes before class. This refreshes your memory and is especially helpful for classes where new material builds on what has already been covered. Interacting with class material more frequently also helps you remember it for exams.

During Class

  • Listen for clues that will tell you what is important. If an instructor repeats something, it is probably a key theme for the day. Instructors will sometimes use language that outlines the themes for the day and that highlights the main points. Examples include introductory phrases like "today we will discuss," outline words like "first" or "second" and concluding phrases such as "the main idea of today's lecture was." Pay attention to what an instructor writes on the board or has printed in a presentation.
  • Make sure that your notes are organized. This will mean something different for each student. Determine what works best for you. Generally speaking though, your notes should be in chronological order, labeled and separated by course.
  • Try using pictures, diagrams and charts to visually explain what you have written down.
  • Leave open space on each page of notes. This allows you to fill in anything you may have missed during the lecture.

After Class

  • Review your notes within 24 hours of the lecture.
  • Do not be afraid to edit your notes. This is why you left open space on the page. Try re-reading your course materials or working with a study group to determine if you missed anything in class.
  • Conduct weekly note review sessions. Again, repetition will help you remember the information.
  • Some students find it helpful to re-write or type their notes.