Taking Effective Notes

The topic of this post doesn’t exactly jump out at most people as being exciting, but when it comes down to it, taking effective notes is an essential college skill. Notes aren’t about just copying what the professor says down word for word. Instead, you have to use your judgement to decipher what you will actually need to remember or know for a test. Here are some of the things that are critical to effective note-taking:

  • Relevance: Some people feel they need to write down every single part of the lecture in order to succeed. This usually ends in failure because you are straining so hard to remember and hear everything that the professor is saying that you’re not actually absorbing the knowledge or making the connections you need to in your brain. If possible, it helps to print out notes ahead of time if they are up online and then use them to follow along with in class and add your additional notes in the margins.
  • Organization: Your notes are basically your outline for the entire class. They are what you are going to use to study for important exams. If they don’t have a sense of organization, how are you supposed to comprehend them when you go back to study? Notes should include important headings and subheadings. You should never be writing down full paragraphs, only bullet points of information. There should be a structure with indentations as well.
  • Simplify: Instead of copying slides word for word, try to simplify what the slide is saying into your own words. This will help you further comprehend what you are learning and also make it easier to study later. It also means more space in your notebook. Come up with a abbreviations for difficult words or phrases so you take notes faster and more efficient.
  • Consistency: Take notes every class! If you don’t develop a routine for every class, your notes will have gaps in them and be more difficult to follow. Taking notes should become second nature for you in college.
  • Bonus: Colors! It sounds nerdy, using colors to organize notes can be extremely helpful ( especially in science classes). Highlighting vocab words or headings can help you determine what is important and is an easy way to organize notes. I don’t know how I would get through physics without my multi-colored pens to distinguish different lines and arrows.

Once you’ve reached college, no one is going to remind you to take notes anymore. You have to realize the importance of taking them and become internally motivated. As a Junior in college, I know I’d be lost without my notes (I apologize for how nerdy that sounds). Stay cool and take good notes kids!


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