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Tips for How to Have the Most Effective Notes

Tips for How to Have the Most Effective Notes

Are you struggling to take effective notes during class? Read more for some tips to get some notes that will have you acing your next exam!

Make sure it is legible 

This tip may seem like an obvious one, but it is one of the most important. We’ve all been there, the professor is speaking too fast and we try to scribble down all this information, then we look back and realize we aren’t able to read any of it. Your notes are not helpful if you can’t understand what you wrote, so take your time while writing them. If you struggle keeping up, try to find a buddy to share notes with or ask the professor for the slides after class.


Focus on the main points

When you start note taking in college, you may feel like you need to write down every word your professor is saying, but it is not necessary. Take notes on the main objectives of the lecture and anything the professor says will be useful to you on the exam. This will keep you from being distracted while studying too, because you will not be spending hours trying to remember every little detail. It also will prevent you from being overwhelmed with large amounts of information. If you need to do additional research regarding the notes, you can do that outside of class so you don’t fall behind.

Review and edit

Don’t be afraid to look over your notes, there may be some spelling errors or points you forgot to write down. It also helps you process what you wrote down and deeper analyze them from when you were in class. It will stick better in your brain if you have read the notes earlier than the night before the exam. Having as clear notes as possible will make it easier when you are preparing for the exam.


Mark anything you are unsure of

If there is a section of the lecture you are not understanding, make sure to make a note of it. That way, if the professor asks for questions you are ready to ask a specific point. If there is no time in the lecture, try to talk to the professor after class or send them an email. A lot of professors also have office hours you can go to. If it is a particular word or phase you don’t know, you can circle it and search it up when you are back in your dorm.


Highlight important information

Using different colors will help organize your notes and certain words will stand out to you, helping you remember them for the exam. Try to keep the highlighting to a minimum, because highlighting the whole page will not be beneficial. Carry one or two highlighters with you to class so you are prepared and ready to go. It also makes your notes look more pleasing, which will make you want to take the time to read them.

Be consistent

Be careful not to pay attention and take detailed notes at the beginning of class, then drift off as the lecture goes on and you lose focus. Your notes will only be useful for you for the first sections of the lecture, then you will be completely lost for the rest of it. Try to keep a reasonable amount of writing pace and listen to the lecture in its entirety. Taking notes throughout the lecture will also keep you much more engaged than you would’ve if you decided to just sit through it.


Use abbreviations

Abbreviations such as b/c for because or w/ for with will save you time and energy writing notes. As long as you keep the same abbreviations across your notes, you will remember what they are as well as save room in your notebook. You can use symbols such as + or = instead of fully spelling it out. In a fast-paced classroom, every second will help you stay on top of your notes.

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Eliminate distractions

Having your phone notifications on while taking notes is a recipe for disaster. You may think you have it under control, but the second the group chat starts sending text after text all the sudden you’ve missed 20 minutes of the lecture and have no idea what’s going on. It is best to have you phone on silent until the lecture is over. If you take notes on your laptop, you can silent your notifications as well. Don’t let yourself shift onto other websites, even if it is a work email or another class assignment. Once you get distracted on other projects it will be hard to focus back on your notes.  


Use visuals

Creating drawings, charts, diagrams, anything to help you comprehend the lesson will add more to your notes. If you are more of a visual learner, it will also help during the exam, because you can think of the drawing you drew to describe that topic even if you don’t remember the specific words. If it is going to be a detailed image, wait until after class to do it so you can take your time and not miss any of the notes. For classes that have specific data you need to remember, it is helpful to have a graph or table of some sort to help you remember the numbers.

Share you’ve learned 

Speaking out loud what you’ve taken away from the lesson will help you remember and understand the notes better. You can ask a classmate to do it with you, and if they need help in the class this is a great opportunity to help them. If you don’t have anyone, you can also record yourself speaking, that way you can also replay the recording before an exam. If you don’t want to talk out loud, you can also write down your thoughts on a separate piece of paper and keep it for when you are confused about a part of your notes.


Are you an effective note-taker? Share some of your favorite tips in the comments!