Note Taking Tips

7 Steps to Better Note-taking

Most classes have two main sources of information: the textbook and the professor’s lectures. Professors generally follow the order of the textbook with their lectures. You can use this to your advantage by taking brief notes before each lecture. This will make it easier for you to keep up in class.

Some people need to write everything down to help them remember (studies show this is true), while others prefer to type their notes. Either way you can use this process to help make note taking easier.

1. Look for key terms and concepts in the text.

Each time you come across one write it down, highlight it, and then give it a brief definition or description. Save time by abbreviating words like because (bc) or with (w/). Little changes like this can let you move through quicker and keep your notes from getting too bulky.

Don’t just skim the chapter for bolded terms. You can skim to help save some time, but be sure not to miss the important information between the bolded terms.

2. Underline things that confuse you.

As you make your way through the chapter, mark the terms or concepts that you find confusing. When you get to class, pay attention to the lectures because the professor will likely clarify the things you’ve underlined. If they don’t, now’s the perfect time to ask.

3. Star things in your notes that the professor talks about in class.

Follow along with your notes during class. If you noted it while reading the textbook and the professor talks about it in class, then you know its important. And don’t forget to write down things that the professor mentions in class that weren’t in the textbook. Just because the textbook doesn’t talk about it doesn’t mean it won’t be on the test.

4. Make the most of your note cards.

You can save money on note cards by cutting up notebook paper into smaller pieces. Make your note cards far in advance of the test and carry them around with you. When you have spare time waiting for the bus or a friend pull them out and go through a few. Put aside note cards that you have trouble remembering so you can spend more time on them later.

5. Keep up with your note-taking throughout the week, BEFORE lectures.

Reading, writing, and hearing the information will reinforce the concepts and help you recall the information easier on test day. If you know you will be busy later in the week try to get ahead on your notes from the textbook so that you aren’t overwhelmed in class.

6. Go to the learning center if you’re having a hard time taking good notes.

Believe it or not, your school wants you to succeed. Consult a professional at your school’s learning or study center to help find the method that works best for you.

7. If you’re having a hard time keeping up ask to record the lectures.

Some colleges may have rules against this or the professor may not feel comfortable with it, so always be sure to ask. But if it’s an option this can help relieve the stress of missing something while taking notes during class. Most professors also post their lecture slides online, so don’t feel like you need to get everything copied down.

  This resource is presented by Kaplan Test Prep, offering test preparation, practice tests and private tutoring for more than 90 standardized tests, including SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, USMLE & NCLEX.

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