5 Tips for More Effective Note Taking

By Staff Writer Published on December 21, 2017

Tips for Effective Note Taking

Figuring out how you can effectively take notes may take some trial and error, but there are definitely some things you can do to improve your note-taking skills regardless of your situation. Here are a few of the steps you can take that will lead to master-level note taking as a college student. Check them out:

1. Be Prepared

While this seems pretty basic in nature, it is definitely a must. You should always arrive to class (even an online class) with a clear mind, plenty of notebook paper, and multiple pen and pencil options. If you prefer typing your notes, make sure your laptop is fully charged and ready to go. And remember, rushing typically means you are going to forget something important, so try to plan your schedule accordingly.

2. Listen

If you don’t give the teacher your full attention, you are going to miss something. Period. All phones and devices or any other distractions should be put away during class time (this is equally important if you are attending a virtual class from home). You may think you can do two things at once, but scrolling through social media during class will lead to mediocre notes. With 100% focus, you will actually absorb more of what is being taught, making it easier to write down notes that will help you down the road.

3. Keep It Simple

Don’t try to write down what your teacher is saying verbatim. If you mindlessly write down every single word, you won’t understand what is being taught. Instead, keep your notes simple and write down important points when they arise. This way, you will actually take in and comprehend what is being said.

4. Take Notes by Hand

Why take notes by hand when you can type much faster on your laptop? A recent study by Princeton University shows that you actually retain more information when you take notes by hand. Typing notes on your laptop usually means you will type the lecture word for word simply because you have the ability to do so. Since you can’t write as fast as you can type, taking notes longhand means you become more selective in what you write down and requires you to summarize things in your own words. As mentioned in step 2, when you listen and focus, you will process and retain more relevant information and won’t need those verbatim notes when it comes to reviewing.

5. Find a System That Works for You

There are different methods of note taking that can help you to improve old habits, and finding a strategy that works for you will definitely get you where you want to be. According to Oxford Learning, the following methods are some of the most effective:

  • The Cornell Method: Divide your page into three sections that include notes, cues, and a summary section. The notes section is for during class, the cues section is for reviewing your notes, and the summary section is where you can highlight main points.
  • The Mapping Method: A more visual approach to note taking, this method can help you make important connections between topics. You simply write the main topic on your note page and then create a “map” of sorts and draw branches off the main topic with subtopics and key details.
  • The Outlining Method: Notes begin with a main topic heading, and any subtopics and key details are written below. Bullet points and indenting are key to keeping your notes orderly and easy to review.
  • The Charting Method: Columns are the focal point of this classic method. Main topics are listed in their own columns with subtopics and details listed in each column. This method makes it easy to quickly jot down key points of each topic.
  • The Sentence Method: Just as it sounds, you simply write down a sentence that includes the important information you will need for later. A new sentence can be started for every new detail and can be numbered, bulleted, and separated by a blank line.

For more guidance when it comes to improving your note-taking and study methods, contact Independence University today. Call (800) 917-6391 or request more information about our degree programs.