Most of the time during our school and university life, we have to attend class in order to learn new materials from various subjects. When we hear something, sometimes, we are certain that we will surely remember it. But it has been constantly proved to be not the case.


So how can we know what is important and what is not? How can we remember all of the things that are delivered in class? Well, the answer would be quite complicated as it requires a lot of things. There is one thing for certain though, that we have to take note. Not just writing everything down but writing with skills and techniques.

Taking note is one of the most critical skills that you need to make sure that you get it right during your student’s life. If you know how to take note well, you would be able to process, learn and reviewing these pieces of information later on quickly and effectively. Scroll down for some tips to help you take notes well.

The importance of taking notes

Many people insist that they can record the whole lecture and rewatch it in case they need to look back the materials. However, taking notes during class brings you a lot of benefits.

  • It promotes active listening as you have to listen carefully in order to know what you should write down
  • It improves your understanding of the subject and helps you to retain the information better.
  • Taking notes supports effective learning. According to UCLA, when a student takes notes, he or she would be able to answer a factual or conceptual question correctly.
  • Taking notes offers a framework for revision. You will find it easier and time efficient when you read notes you have taken in order to prepare for the upcoming exams.

How to take notes effectively

  1. Talk about 3 methods a student can use

There are 3 most common methods of taking notes you can use including the Outline Method, Cornell method and map method.

  • In the Outline method, you write down various notes in an organised layout with different space indentations. This method is most suitable when you take notes from a presentation slide or a book chapter. With this method, you would be able to see the main points and concepts easily. However, it is a little bit more difficult when you want to evaluate the relationships between different concepts.
  • The Cornel methods refer to the system when you have different sections on a single page for different part of a note including the key concept and the notes relating to the concept. Then in a separate section, you would have to write down a summary. This method makes it extremely easy for you to revise for exams. You can cover the notes and learn with the cues when revising.  In addition, studies have proved that this method supports critical thinking. While it takes time for you to write down the conclusion after each lecture, it is actually a great opportunity for you to reflect on what you have learned during a lecture.
  • The last method you can use to take note during class is the map method. This method uses no linear framework. This method is suitable when there is a huge amount of material that is going to be covered during the lecture. It is fun to look at but sometimes, it might look complicated and harder for you to follow the key concepts. For an important concept, you can write it in the middle of a blank page. Then draw a shape around this concept and it will surely stand out every time you browse your notes.
  1. Before the lecture

Before you come to the lecture, make sure that you are well prepared. You should have a look at the outline of the lecture as well as the slides, or any relevant materials covering the next lecture. When you get through these materials, you will know what are the most important concepts that you should pay attention to take notes. Also, you should spend time going through the notes from the last lecture. It will help you to remember the points which have been taught and hence, would be able to learn new concepts better.

You can also write a few notes about the new concepts before the lecture as well. In case you come across new terms and concepts, which you find it hard to understand, you should also write them down and expect them to be taught in class.

  1. During the lecture

First of all, you should sit at where you can see the board or the slideshow of the lecture. Also, sit at the front when you can stay focused and would be able to listen to the lecturer clearly. Moreover, when you sit in the front, you will be more motivated and focused to listen to the lecture as other people around will likely listen to the lecture carefully.


Make sure that you organize your notes well. Start taking notes for each new lecture on a new page. Date and title your notes as well as book chapters that are covered in this lecture. When you do these things, it will help you to come back to your notes quickly during your revision for the exam.

Listen for cues and keywords. Then paraphrase what you hear instead of writing everything down. You should only note down the most important points. However, there are some cases which you are not sure what notes to write down, you can totally write down word to word the information that you get from the lecturer. However, you should resist doing so often. For complex ideas, you can draw some diagrams to make these ideas more organised and easier to learn later on.

There are several ways that you should pay attention to as they are the evidence of important cues. When the lecturer emphasises a key concept for several times or raises his/her voice, you would know that what the lecturer is going to say is very important. Also, pay attention to some phrases such as “The most important point is…” or “You have to remember that…” What your lecturer writes down on board is also important and worth noting as well.

You don’t have to worry much about the presentation of your notes while you are writing them down.

To make it quicker for you when you write down your notes, you can use shorthand as well as abbreviations and symbols. You can make up your own symbols as long as when you look back to these notes, you can still understand what you have written.

  1. After the lecture


Before you leave the lecture, you should spend around 30 seconds to do some reflection. Think about what you have learned today and what you are still unsure about. This reflection time is also useful when you use the Cornell note taking method.

As I mentioned above, you don’t have to make your notes look beautiful right away. After the lecture, it is time you re-write notes to make them easier for you to look at. You can colour code if you want. For example, red is for title and concept while blue is for a sub-point. You can also organise your notes into different systems such as mind map.

You can use a highlighter to stress the important point. Once again, try to use different colours of highlighters for different things.

You should review your notes within 24 hours. According to recent studies, people would forget 60% of the information that they have received within 8 hours unless you recall the information right after the lecture. That is the reason why you should review your note as soon as possible to ensure that you can remember things in the lecture better later on.

If you find a concept unclear, you can seek help from the lecturer, your friends or books. If you leave out some important points, you can check with your friends’ notes as well.

Taking notes during class might seems to be a simple task. You might think that all you need to do is writing everything the lecturer has said in a notebook. However, if you know how to write the key concepts down in a structured way, you would be able to understand the subject better. With helpful notes, you would also be able to retain the information better and can revise them effectively and quickly for the exam.

I hope that you now know about the critical importance of taking notes. As long as you can remember all of the tips above, I am sure that taking notes will not be a challenging task for you at all.

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