Top Ten Tips to Take your Note-Taking Up a Notch

Do you want to get good grades this semester? Go to class! Attend every lecture, lab, and/or discussion section. Try not to think of the number of allotted absences listed on your syllabus as an allowance burning a hole in your pocket. Instead, reserve these for illness or emergencies. While attendance is vital to your success, it is not enough to merely be a warm body in the classroom. You need to pay close attention and take active notes. Here are some note-taking tips that can help you retain information, stay on top of your coursework, and cut down on your exam review time.

  1. Have your materials organized, on you, and ready to go. 
    Do you take notes by hand? Make sure you have notebooks for each of your classes, and that you bring the correct notebook to each class. Carry spare pens or pencils. Do you use your laptop? Then make sure it’s all juiced up. Bring your charger to class with you and get there early so you can snag a spot by one of the few, coveted wall outlets.

  2. Label your notes!
    Start your notes for each class by labeling them with the course name, date, and subject discussed. If you take them on the computer make sure you have a folder for each of your classes and a common naming convention. Digitization doesn’t offer any efficiency if you are not organized.

  3. Don’t rely too much on the Powerpoints!
    Remember: Powerpoints are just teaching tools. Don’t assume everything you need to know for the test is written on them. You need to pay careful attention to what your lecturer is saying. The instructor will likely hit important points that are not on the presentation. 
    Conversely, you don’t want to waste all your time copying from the blackboard or a Powerpoint word perfect. Abbreviate, put things in your own words, and just get down the gist. Try to find out early in the semester if these Powerpoints are available for you online. If so, consider printing these out ahead of class and taking notes on there. That will save you a lot of writing time that you can devote instead to
    jotting down what you hear.

  4. A picture is worth a thousand words.
    Sometimes instructors utilize the blackboard to illustrate points, organize information, or map out student ideas. If you find hand copying all this is distracting, take a photo with your phone. Just try to be respectful and efficient. You don’t want to interrupt class!

  5. Use Highlighters and Post-it notes.
    There is more to note-taking than ink and paper. Highlighters, sticky notes, and page tabs can go a long way in flagging important information. If you are in a literature class, for instance, mark important passages. If you rent, use page tabs. If you own your books, consider highlighting important passages in your book. You can also use sticky notes to scribble down some of the interpretations your professor and fellow students offer about these passages. 

  6. Take notes when you do your assigned reading.
    Don’t be afraid to highlight or take notes while you read, this will help with reading quizzes, will aid your understanding in lecture, and will help you study for tests.

  7. Write down questions you have when you have them.
    Don’t be afraid to ask these in class or via email– you never know who else you might have a similar question!  

  8. Team Up!
    If you do happen to be absent from class, ask another diligent note-taker in class if you can take a photo of their notes. It couldn’t hurt to establish a rapport of this kind. You two could start a study group or compare notes to make sure you both captured all the important information.

  9. Ask for help!
    Do you have trouble keeping up due to a physical limitation or learning disability? Be sure to register with your campus disability or access office. Through this valuable resource, qualified students can register for important accommodations like note-taking and recorders. (Don’t need an accommodation? Note-taking is also an excellent way to earn a few extra bucks or volunteer hours as a student!)

  10. Review your notes daily!
    Spending 10 minutes each day to reinforce what you learned adds to retention and will drastically cut down on study time for bigger exams.

    BONUS: Take Stock in College is a proud partner with Study Edge. Through Study Edge, Take Stock scholars have free access to hundreds of hours of free online educational content. Join to learn more about your free Study Edge access code to supplement your notes, increase your understanding, and get ahead in class!

As always, success in college comes from good habits. Earning the grade is a marathon, not a sprint. Showing up to class every day, keeping your phone in your bag, actively listening, writing down quality notes, and reviewing these notes regularly are all little commitments you can make every single day. These steps can help you pass a class on the first go around so you don’t burn through scholarship dollars retaking classes. If you have any questions, please reach out to your College Completion Coach. We are happy to help you develop good note-taking practices, or even to review some of the notes you have already taken. 

Hop on Take Stock Connect and tell us your best note-taking practices!

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