notesTaking good notes is essential to classroom success.  It can be a challenge to figure out the best strategy for taking notes and it takes time and practice to strike a balance that will allow you to avoid taking too many or not enough notes.  By taking good notes it will help you on tests because you will be studying the most important material and taking notes can also help you stay focused in class.

There are a wide range of strategies for taking notes and it is important to try them out until you find the system that will work best for you.  It is important to keep your notes organized so if organization is a challenge, be sure to check out the page on organization to help with note-taking as well.

Here are some hints that can help you improve your note taking:

  • Start a new page for each class and day.  On the top of the page, write the date, topic, and, if applicable, the page number(s) of the textbook that the notes are covering
  • Only use one side of the paper and skip lines between ideas and main points to allow you to have extra room to add information in later.
  • Leave a wide margin of space on the left or the right side of your notes page (several inches).  This will allow you to add in keywords or to write in questions that you can use to quiz yourself later.  (By folding your notes page at the margin, you will have created your own "flashcard" type of a system.)
  • Identify your key words - You can do this by emphasizing them with a star, an underline, or a highlighter
  • Don't worry about writing in complete sentences when taking notes
  • While the information is still fresh, take a few minutes and go over your notes to rewrite anything that doesn't make sense, to emphasize the key words, and to fill in any spaces
  • Use symbols and abbreviations to help you take faster notes.  Below are a few examples you might use:
    • =   equal or same
    • >   greater than
    • <   less than
    • ~   approximately
    • w/   with
    • w/in   within
    • w/o    without
    • b/c    because
    • esp   especially
    • eg   for example
    • &    and
  • At the end of your day's notes, summarize in your own words what the main points of that day's lesson was about
  • You can also read your book ahead of time and any keywords that will be repeated frequently throughout your notes, you can create your own abbreviation - just be sure to write it down at the top of your page so that you don't forget it later.  (For example, if learning about the French Revolution, instead of writing it out a ton of times, you might just list FR for French Revolution.)
  • Use your own words when taking notes because personal notes are usually easier to remember than simply reading the text book.
  • Focus your notes on what your teachers are emphasizing - this may be what they write on the board, what they repeat frequently, what they emphasize by tone of voice and gesture, the length of time your teacher spends on points and the number of examples used, word signals (2 points of view, 3rd reason, etc), reviews at the beginning of class, and summaries at the end of class.
  • Keep your notes brief - key words or a phrase is often sufficient.
  • Use your own words, except when writing out formulas, definitions, or specific facts.
  • Using an outline format can allow you to indent to help distinguish major from minor points.
  • If you miss something your teacher covered, write key words, skip a few spaces and get the information later.
  • Don't plan to rewrite or retype your notes - do it right the first time and leave plenty of space to add to your notes or clarify points.
  • Even if you understand everything your teacher is covering, write it down to help you remember it.
  • Review your notes regularly.  By spending just 10 minutes a week going through your notes again and quizzing yourself about what you have learned you will be able to retain most of what you have learned.  Taking notes effectively is a skill that takes practice.  Check your results and strive to improve.  After you receive a test back, go through your test and your notes - did you have all of the points covered in your notes?  What areas might you need to work on to make sure your notes are covering what you need?