Note-taking is a powerful tool that helps in summarizing difficult concepts and retaining and understanding information that is given out during lectures. It helps you stay focused, and gather more data.
Writing your notes down will enable you to memorize the points better and keep a record of what was taught on a certain day, thereby helping you study for your exams.
In this article, you will learn how to take good lecture notes and make them work for you.
7 Effective Strategies to Take Good Lecture Notes
Note-taking is like your personal reference library. It’s safe to say that the skill of taking good notes is effective in achieving your study goals and getting better grades in class.
Wondering how to get started? Here are seven effective strategies to help you take good lecture notes.
1. Go to class prepared
Usually, students who come prepared take better notes and understand the lecture better than the ones who come without a roadmap in their minds. Review your notes from the last lecture to be up to speed with what your professor is about to teach.
If there was any assigned reading material, make it a point to read or skim through it and write down questions about concepts that you need your professor to clarify. Reviewing notes and reading material helps in identifying the concepts that are likely to be discussed in class.
2. Be an active listener
Actively pay attention to what your professors are teaching during their lectures and pick out the important points to write down in your notes. Make an effort to understand what is being taught in class, concentrate, and avoid any form of distractions.
During the lecture, your professors will probably give you specific cues to pinpoint important information which will most likely appear in your exams or assignments. Listening attentively will guide you in becoming an efficient note-taker and also avoid missing out on essential details and knowledge through these lectures.
Take a look at this interesting video by the Academic Success Center at Rochester Institute of Technology on how to be a better active listener
3. When in doubt, ask questions
If you come across something that you don't understand, don't hesitate to ask your professor for clarification. In case you missed out on something that your professor said, please ask if they could repeat themselves. It’s always better to ask rather than let the information go by.
Additionally, if you ask your teachers or professors questions related to the lecture, your professors will be impressed. It shows that you have paid attention during the lecture and wish to understand the topic better.
4. Write clear and accurate notes
Many times, students trust their memory a bit too much and do not jot down points during a lecture, only to later realize that they cannot recall important details.
So, writing legible and accurate notes is a must-do, as it helps in reviewing important key points and comprehending concepts that may have seemed difficult during the lectures.
Moreover, since professors cover a wide range of topics during their lectures, having accurate notes makes it easier for you to focus on relevant topics and new information that require more attention.
5. Use abbreviations for speed
Since a lot of topics are covered in lectures that span for an hour or two, it can get difficult to write down all the necessary details quickly and clearly.
Thus to ease this process, we recommend using symbols or abbreviations such as:
- e.g. (for example)
- cent. (century)
- & (and)
- w/o (without)
- dept. (Department)
- i.e. (that is)
- govt. (Government)
This increases the speed of your writing which in turn helps you write more efficiently without falling behind.
6. Adopt a note-taking method that suits you
Smart tactics enable students to take effective notes without it being too much of a hassle. These approaches are designed to take the stress out of note-taking so that they can focus on the lecture.
There are a number of methods that any student can use for efficient note-taking, so be careful to choose the one that you are most comfortable with. Don't write using a new method, as it might confuse you, thereby derailing the content in your notes.
A basic note-taking method is to write your points in bullets and phrases instead of complete sentences. This will help your mind retain information easier and quicker after class. It will also help you focus on the critical notions of the topic.
7. Review and edit
Last but not the least, make sure not to neglect to review your notes and edit them according to what is required and what is redundant.
Editing helps you clear out unimportant points or illegible phrases or words. Reviewing and clearing out the mess helps form a clear understanding of what was being taught in class and recognize the crucial concepts at a deeper level.
3 Common Note-Taking Methods to Simplify Studying
Now that we have established the important and useful strategies in knowing how to take good lecture notes, let’s take a look at three useful note-taking methods that will help students in writing constructive lecture notes and ace their upcoming exams.
This method is one of the easiest ways to take lecture notes. It helps with organizing the structure of the ideas or data through headings, subheadings, and bullet points.
Outlining simplifies your notes while highlighting key points and themes in a logical way. As you create your outline notes, you can pick a few major topics that were covered in the lecture, and beneath these points, write down all the in-depth information and sub-points about each of these topics.
For example, if the lecture is about Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, you can create sub-headings and jot down points on each major character and their transitions in the play.
Furthermore, you can take notes about the prophecies of the three witches, how violence plays a major theme in this play, and more. Reviewing and editing become an easier process this way.
However, the outline method also has some limitations:
- This approach limits the details, so it can get overwhelming to review the notes of lectures that are information-dense;
- Not an appropriate method to use if the lecture doesn't have a certain hierarchical structure;
- Not suitable for subjects that involve formulas, graphs, or charts.
When a lot of information is given during lectures, the mind-mapping method works most accurately.
This note-taking method helps you organize your notes by dividing the ideas or points into branches and establishing a relationship between the concepts.
It is a graphic representation of the content that is presented during the lecture. Start with writing the main topic at the top of the page and dividing it into sub-topics as you go down.
As you reach a topic, you can further branch it out to get a deeper and clearer understanding.
The mind-mapping method is also used for guest lectures where you have minimal or no idea about the content. Thus, as the lecture goes on, you can branch your ideas and information further into multiple sub-topics for better knowledge.
A few cons of the mind-mapping method are:
- If there are several details and sub-topics, you might lose out on space while branching out the notes;
- Can get confusing if the information is branched into the wrong sub-topic/category.
3. The Cornell System
The Cornell Method is a unique note-taking method that barely has any disadvantages and is appropriate for all and any kind of lectures and meetings.
It consists of dividing the page into three sections -- notes, keywords or cues, and summary. The note section is the primary section of the page, with the cues section present in the left margin of the page while leaving the summary at the bottom.
All the notes from the lecture go into the note section of the page. You can structure it any way that you want, just remember to stay organized.
Similarly, the cues section involves keywords, questions, or the main points of the lecture. This segment helps keep the main keywords in mind, which in turn generates a larger and more in-depth analysis of these points. Finally, at the bottom, the summary section is utilized to summarize your entire lecture or other miscellaneous points and information you have noted down on the first page.
This method forms a quick way to organize and review your notes after class. It also helps extract crucial information and enables effective learning by absorbing data in a shorter period of time.
Takeaway: Take Good Lecture Notes
Knowing how to take good lecture notes is an important part of a student’s life as it has a huge impact on getting good grades and a higher GPA.
If your notes are accurate and organized, it makes the review process before any exams or tests, much simpler and easily understandable. So follow these useful tactics, and improve your note-taking process.
Last edit at Jul 27 2023