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Study Skills: Tips for Taking Effective Notes

Before class

  • Read or survey the material that will be covered in the upcoming lecture.
  • Review notes from the previous class.
  • Get the notes from any session you've missed.
  • Meet with your instructor to clarify the concepts from the last lecture.

During class

  • Date and title each set of notes, and keep notes from different classes separate.
  • Sit where you can hear and see clearly without distractions.
  • Don't crowd your notes. Leave blanks to fill in missed items and to expand your notes later.
  • Concentrate! Stay involved in the class and ask questions. Join in class discussions.
  • Take too many notes rather than not enough. However, don't try to write each word.
  • Write quickly, but make your writing legible enough for your own reading.
  • Use abbreviations and symbols to save time.
  • Mark ideas that the instructor emphasized with an arrow, star, or by underlining them.
  • Try to recognize main ideas by signal words that indicate something important is to follow. Listen for words such as “first,” “next,” “then,” “thus,” and “in conclusion.
  • Pay attention to key phrases such as “this is important” or “this might be a good test item.”
  • Add examples your professor provides in order to clarify abstract ideas, and use them to jog your memory when studying later.
  • Learn as much as you can in class because this will help you better understand and complete outside assignments. 

After class

  • Review notes within 24 hours of class.
  • Some people benefit from rewriting their lecture notes. However, be sure to leave time to think about your notes.
  • Fill in abbreviations, add omitted points, and correct errors.
  • Use information from your text or ask your instructor or a classmate to help you fill in the gaps in your notes.
  • Use margin space to write key words or phrases
  • Study by covering your notes and testing yourself on that information using the keywords as cues.
  • Review your notes several times throughout the week.

Useful abbreviations for note taking:

Abbreviation Meaning
mng meaning
betw between
ccpt concept
dn description
fn function
qn question
w with
w/o without
wh when
+ and