Note Taking Skills

Your notes will be most useful if you think of them as a starting point for more learning. Your brain will remember information better if it has seen it multiple times and has different pathways for accessing the information.

Using a range of senses while taking and using notes can help you remember information better. You can try writing your notes, talk them over with a classmate, and then draw a picture or make any visual based on key concepts.

Don’t let your lectures be the only time you hear about a concept. Note taking is a process that occurs before, during, and after class - print out any lecture notes or slides and make notes before class. Add notes during class; use abbreviations and symbols to help with time. Summarize your notes and make connections after class.

10 Ways to Use Your Notes
1. Visit office hours to talk through questions you noted during lecture. 6. Write practice test questions.
2. Make a study guide 7. Make and organize post-it notes
3. Write a summary of key points 8. Make visual connections between notes from different lectures.
4. Change your notes into visuals 9. Identify real-world examples of main concepts
5. Fill in answers to questions you write during class 10. Explain the main points from your lecture to a friend

Note Taking Strategies


  •  Your working memory stresses less when you think in your own words.
  •   When you write down your lectures, you spend less time learning concepts during the lecture.


  •   Using abbreviations and symbols saves time
  •   This helps to develop personal associations and establishes these connections with symbols.


  •  Changing your notes into summaries or concept maps creates new retrieval paths for your memory.
  •  Using and applying your notes  gives you practice with the material


  • Class discussions, student comments, and group work are all learning opportunities that can expand your thinking and understanding of the material.


  • Challenge yourself to take notes in several different ways, find out what works best for you
  • Experimenting with different formats also helps you retain the information better.


In some cases, consider the following scenarios


The professor talks too fast

  • Use abbreviations so you can capture information faster
  • Share and compare notes with friends before or after class
  • Mark areas you need to return to or add details to later when studying
  • If the lecture is recorded, review the recording and fill in missing information


You’re having trouble understanding the professor because of an accent

  • Write questions you hope will be answered in class
  • Listen for key concepts, key terms, or answers to your questions
  • Watch for clues to important information
  • Visit your professor during their office hours to get clarification, the more you communicate with him/her the better you get at understanding their speech


There are very few lecture slide to follow

  • Try to finding the information in your text, books, online etc. that will support the slides provided
  • Look for connections and add detail from other resources (textbook, videos, etc.)
  • Write questions you hope will be answered in class.

You are not sure what to write down

  • Pay attention and listen for big ideas or key concepts
  • Listen for repetition- during your lecture the instructor will repeat him/herself in different ways to emphasize what they want you to know.
  • Look out for cues or specific examples of a concept- often times this is an indication of important information that might be used as testing material.


In any case, it’s always best to practice the following

  • Prepare before class. Pre-reading is highly recommended so that you may be prepared for your upcoming lecture.
  • After class share your notes with your colleagues and compare them with each other. This will also help you get clarification on areas of confusion.
  • Visit your professor during office hours.