Note Taking Tips

Call me a nerd, but I love to take notes.

People used to pay me to take notes for them, no joke. My secret to good note-taking is no secret at all! You just need a pen and some highlighters and you’re ready to go.

There’s two sources of information for any given class: your lectures and your textbook. Professors follow the order of the textbook (usually) during their lectures. If you can put in the extra work ahead of time and take brief notes before each lecture, it’ll be so much easier to keep up in class.

If you’re like me, you have to write down everything to retain it. But I totally get that not everyone works that way. If it’s easier for you to type out your notes, that’s perfectly fine, but you’ll still want to keep up with the same process of taking notes before the lecture.

Textbooks are pretty good and bolding or emphasizing key points or terms.

1. Every time you come across a new term or key concept, write it down and highlight it and follow it up with a definition or a description.

To save time, I abbreviate A LOT. You can shorten words like ‘because’ to ‘bc’ or ‘with’ to ‘w/’ and so on. It doesn’t seem like much, but you’d be surprised how quick you can get through a chapter when you have your own set of abbreviations.

Don’t just skim the chapters for bolded terms, though. You can skim the chapters to save time, but be sure to write down the concepts and ideas that are in between all of the bolded stuff, too!

2. As you write down the main points from each section of the chapters, underline things you’re confused by.

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. As you listen to the lecture, follow along in your notes and STAR the things your professor talks about. If it’s in the book AND your professor goes into detail about it, you can bet your ass it’s on the exam. Anything they discuss in class is fair game for the test. Don’t ignore it simply because it wasn’t in the textbook! This is why it’s important to take notes during class as well.

Remembering dates of events is one of the hardest things for a lot of people. If you’re not skilled in this area (like me) try making flashcards!

4. Save money on notecards and cut up notebook paper into small cards. Write the dates on one side and descriptions on the other. Highlight the dates to emphasize them! I don’t know the scientific reason why this works but it does, trust me!

I know it’s tempting to wait until the last night to write all of your notes, but you will regret it, and you will miss crucial points if you’re rushing.

5. Keep up with your note-taking throughout the week, BEFORE lectures. Reading it, writing it, and hearing will reinforce all of those concepts in your head and you’ll be able to recall the information a lot easier and faster on the test!

6. Go to the learning center if you’re having a hard time finding a way to take notes that works best for you.

7. Ask your professor if it’s okay to record the lectures if you’re finding it hard to keep up with listening and note-taking during class! A lot of professors post their lecture slides online anyway, so don’t forget about those!

  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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