Do you wish you could get more out of the notes you take in class? Are your notes hard to interpret later? Try some of these tips for more effective note taking.

First, decide what method of taking notes works best for you and the type of class. Three methods are described in other handouts available through the Learning Center. These are the Cornell method, the outline method and mind mapping. Not every method works for everyone and not every method works well in every kind of class. Why not practice taking notes during the news or a documentary on television?

After you have decided on a method, look into the tips that follow. Try two or three at a time and later add others.

Note Taking Tips

  • Sit as close to the front of class as possible to increase your level of attention and decrease distractions. This allows you to hear and see unimpeded as well.
  • Date your notes and identify the class.
  • Look for clues the instructor may give that he or she is saying something important:
    • Repetition
    • Watch the instructor's eyes--is he or she reading from notes to be sure something is stated exactly?
    • Highlight obvious clues. Instructors often tell you in so many words that something is important or will be on a test. Star, underline, use a highlighter or in some other way mark it as such.
    • Listen for verbal "asterisks" such as, "The main point is…," "We will focus on…," "The key is…"
    • Notice the instructor's interest level. Is he or she excited? Is the voice more emphatic than usual?