Note-Taking Techniques

Before Class

  • Read or skim the material that will be covered in the upcoming lecture
  • Read over your notes from the previous class
  • Meet with your professor or TA to clarify confusion on concepts
  • Ask classmates for notes from previous classes you might have missed
  • Compose clear questions about terms or concepts

During Class

  • Stay involved in class and ask questions
  • Take too many notes rather than not enough
  • Focus on the point the professor is making rather than scrambling to copy the entire overhead without listening to what the professor is saying
  • Take notes in different colors or highlight important information
  • Include examples given during class
  • Don't watch the clock; pay attention to the lecture
  • Learn as much as you can in class so you will be successful when working on assignments later
  • Record the lecture so you can look back for clarification

After Class

  • Review notes within 24 hours of class.
  • Some people benefit from recopying their notes; give it a try!
  • As you read your notes highlight, underline, and mark points that are important.
  • Elaborate your notes; compare the information to what you already know.
  • Write a summary of the notes at the end.
  • Conduct weekly review periods. Once a week go through all of your notes again.
  • Meet other students in the class so you can share notes.

Write it down if a speaker...

  • Repeats an item
  • Writes an item on the board or overheads
  • Points or gestures
  • Changes tone or volume of voice
  • Makes a direct reference to the book
  • Asks if everyone understands
  • Gives an example
  • Slows down

Tips for Effective Listening

  • Sit where you feel most comfortable; try the front of the room.
  • Listen for more than just facts; try to understand the big picture.
  • Take more notes than necessary.
  • Anticipate what the speaker is going to say next.
  • Try to select main ideas and supporting details.
  • Listen first, then write; leave spaces to fill in information gaps.

Setting Up Your Notebook

  • Keep separate notebooks or separate section in a notebook for different classes.
  • Start notes from different dates on a fresh page.
  • Leave space and room within your notes to expand upon them late.
  • Makes notes brief.
  • Highlight unfamiliar vocabulary and unclear areas. Date and title each set of notes and keep notes from different classes separate.
  • Use symbols to identify important concepts in the notes.
  • Write down notes in your own words.

Cornell Note-Taking

  • Identify places to revisit, gaps where you need clarification, or questions you have from the lecture.
  • Highlight keywords.
  • Make connections to other material either from your experience or from the textbook.
  • Reduce ideas and facts to concise summaries and important topics.
  • Create questions to study from (based on the information below).

5 R's


  • During the lecture, write all meaningful information legibly.


  • After the lecture, write a summary of the ideas and facts using keywords.


  • To study properly, recite the information in your own words without looking at your notes or the text.


  • Think about your own opinions and ideas. Raise questions and try to answer them creatively.


  • Before learning new material, for 10 minutes review old notes. Skim over the main ideas and details.

After class, use the space at the bottom of each page to summarize the notes on that page.