Here is your all-in-one ultimate tip guide to help you take notes in class. Well okay, it’s a condensed version because taking notes is a surprisingly large topic! It’s one of those things that you might have learned in middle school or high school depending on your courses or teachers but then again, maybe note taking was one of those oh-so-boring things from high school that didn’t really cross your mind as important. If that’s you, then don’t panic! Here’s a list of 10 ultimate tips that will help you take the sort of notes friends and classmates will always ask to borrow!
1. Know Your Learning Style
Regardless of your education level there’s always good tips around on how to take notes. The first one is knowing your learning style and whether you are an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner. In basic terms this refers to the way that you remember or learn things the best either by hearing, seeing, or doing. There’s tons of tests that you can take to figure this out, like this one from Education Planner that ask what seems like a long list of questions to eventually tell you your learning style. This site takes it even further and gives you additional lists of suggestions based on each particular style in order to help you focus in class.
2. To Color or Not to Color
Some people, especially visual learners, find that taking notes in color helps them remember things better since they can connect a certain color with a level of importance when studying or just to help them get organized when frantically scribbling words on a page in an effort to keep up with your teacher who wants to cram everything in before lunch. Gel pens are very popular for but even a regular blue or black pen with colored highlighters works-it all depends on preference! (See Tip #3 for more!)
3. The Pen is Mightier than the Sword!
Seeing as it’s the 21st Century and very few people use swords now a days this statement is absolutely true! Finding the right writing utensil for you might take a while but if you try out as many different things as you can, you’ll find the one that just feels right and makes you want to pay attention in class (okay, so that might not be true. More likely you’ll get distracted doodling on the corner of your page-you know who you are!) The point is, whether you use a regular old (or pretty) pencil, colored pens or highlighters, it doesn’t matter as long as it works for you.
P.S. If you’re the kind of person who lets people borrow your pencils/pens, etc. than this might also be a better way to identify them as your own so you can get them back because everyone has that one friend that forgets!
4. Hit Record
If you’re an auditory learner than it really helps to study with a friend or classmate and have them read things out to you so you can answer them. It’s also super helpful to have recordings of your classes, or even parts of them, so you can listen to them later to help prepare yourself. Make sure you ask your teacher if they would mind if you audio recorded (not video) the lesson only if it helps you study. Sometimes they won’t mind but others would prefer that you didn’t, so make sure you respect their response (especially since recording someone without their knowledge is illegal..). If they prefer you don’t record them try to take as many notes as you can or ask a friend (see Tip#4 for this as well) and recording yourself or your friend-again, with permission only-reading them out loud so you can play them back later to study from.
DO NOT RECORD ANY TEACHERS, CLASSMATES, ETC. WITHOUT THEIR EXPRESSED CONSENT.
5. Study Buddies
This isn’t referring to the older/younger school mate that you were assigned to in elementary school and had mandatory class-long study sessions with. Yes, it’s a similar concept but it’s a lot less awkward! If you have friends in your classes, buddy up, this is a normal human tendency anyway but a reminder to be conscious of it never hurts! It’s a lot easier and less stressful if you get together outside of class (lunch breaks are perfect for this!) to study together and share notes. This is super helpful especially if one of you is sick since this way you’re still getting the information that you need from the class plus it’s more fun to study with a friend!
6. “Come On, Get Your Sh*t Together!”
As offensive as it is, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard a variation of this phrase at one point of another whether it was from a teacher, a friend, or a parent and if it wasn’t directed at us then we heard it being said to a friend or classmate. “You’ve got to get organized!” was a more polite version (although no one ever actually explains how to get organized at that point). This one is similar to Tip #2 in whether or not using color helps you or not, maybe you have a different color notebook or binder for each class or if they’re all one color with neat labels on them, a calendar with coordinating colors to those binders for class due dates, etc. It’s up to you how you do it but it definitely helps with taking notes and being able to find what you need later when you’re studying. Be prepared is one of the best things you can do when it comes to taking notes.
7. Use Your Devices
We live in a world where technology is literally everywhere so here’s one of those times when you can really make the most of it. It’s more than likely your school has some form of homework app where teachers post class materials and a lot of students find it very helpful to open these notes on their computer during class and follow along with the instructor (or go back if they miss that last sentence before the teacher changed slides). If you’re someone who gets easily distracted by other things on their computer *cough cough* social media, then this method might not be for you. If your teacher or school doesn’t already do this then maybe you could propose one and benefit everyone.
8. The Appropriate Way to Take Pictures in Class
No, this is not a tip about the random Snapchat pictures you always receive or see on people’s stories of some other people’s feet, chair legs, and the floor with a typical bored school related comment, or those featuring the back of a classmate’s head. These are the times when a teacher actively tells the class to “get out your phones and take a picture of this”, that’s when you KNOW it’s important (and will probably be on a test at some point), so make sure to keep that picture somewhere on your camera roll where you can hopefully find it again later to print it and add to your other class notes.
9. The Freedom of Not Having Assigned Seats
Since you no longer have assigned seats it is now up to you to decide where in those cramped classrooms you should sit. Most students gravitate towards the back of the room and sit in their friend groups and are reluctant to encouragement when they teacher asks the class to come closer to the front (not sure why, teachers aren’t scary like not having any cell service or running over your data). The point is, if you’re finding where you currently sit in class isn’t working for you-like being an auditory learner and sitting at the back of the class where you can’t hear-then don’t be afraid to change it up. Sit in the middle of the class or even *gasp* the front so you can hear better which will improve your notes. Sitting with friends is great but don’t let them drag you down and prevent you from doing well (and taking better notes) especially when you know you’re capable of it.
10. The Annual Burning of Homework
Well maybe not burning, but definitely throwing out and getting rid of almost every notebook, binder, and paper from that school year. This may seem very therapeutic, especially as you’re smiling and tossing everything into a huge bin being thanking that the year is over, but it might cause you some stress later on. A lot of classes, particularly in university, are a continuation of things you’ve learned in high school or in previous years of study which means it would be helpful to have those old notes (no matter how good/bad) so you can review and have something to work off of later and add new notes to as you go. This doesn’t mean you have to keep everything and never throw it out, but it might be handy to have those old notebooks that you thought you’d never need again for reference material.
Taking notes is something you just have to jump into and start otherwise you might never get the hang of it. Hopefully this guide has helped those of you who were totally lost in this area or just wanted to improve your skills for future classes. Talk to your friends or even your teachers about finding more strategies that will help you take better notes depending on your particular learning style (all the way back in Tip #1) and see what works for you. If you find something you feel is a success then work with it and adapt it to work for you and leave it in the comments below. Good luck to you all in your future note taking!