7 tips for taking your best notes in class

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Taking notes is as essential to passing classes as actually reading the material. For some people, taking notes doesn’t come naturally. 

So, if you’re not the type that loves taking notes, and doesn’t find a whole lot of benefit from it, we’ve got some tips. 

Come to class prepared

It is a million times harder to organize your notes if you have no idea what the lecture is about or what’s going on that day. Make sure you complete any assignments or reading ahead of your class. 

Additionally, come prepared with your notebook, pens, and highlighters. There’s nothing worse than getting to class and realizing you don’t have the materials you need. 

Handwrite your notes

There’s a direct correlation between what you retain when you write compared when you type things up. While it might be faster and easier to type your notes, you’re much more likely to remember the critical information if you write them by hand. 

It helps to find a way to make this fun for yourself. Whether that’s buying a distinct notebook for each class or colored pens to organize your thoughts. Whatever you have to do to enjoy the writing process, try to figure out. 

Keep handouts and notes organized

Your handouts likely serve as the outline for your notes. The additional notes you take should center around that outline. To keep on top of things, you should keep your notes and outlines from the same lecture together. 

Having them in the same place will make it easier when it comes time to studying both the notes and the handouts together.

Date your notes and put the name of the class they’re for at the top. That way, if you have a wayward note lying around, there’s no question where it belongs. 

Pay attention to what your professor says is important

This should be obvious. If your professor repeats a specific theory, event, or piece of information — that’s probably a sign that it’s important.

It’s even more pressing to write it down or highlight it if they mention that it’s important. What notes really come down to is paying attention to the repetitive themes and letting your professor guide you through the information the way it will relate to the test. 

Come up with a system that works for you

Obviously, nobody expects you to transcribe a lecture word for word. Come up with abbreviations, doodles, and symbols that will help you link one thought to another. 

Where you can use a short phrase or a single word, do it. Don’t write down everything and miss information in the process. 

There’s no one way to take notes. In fact, there are many systems people have developed that work really well for them. Do your research and find what works best for you.

Highlight what’s important

If you have a good feeling about what’s going to be on the exam, highlight it. If an exam is a few weeks after a lecture, it’s easy to forget what you knew was important at that moment. 

Highlight key phrases, definitions, dates, and quotes that you know you should come back to come study time. 

Type them up after class

I know, we just said not to type because writing is better. Do you know what’s even better? Going over them a second time and typing them up. Not only will you have your prized digital copy, but it forces your brain to go over the notes a second time.

Just like handwriting can help you retain information, so can repeating the information by typing it up. 

Note-taking can feel stressful. The key element to successful notes is coming to class prepared and paying attention to what’s being said. Professors design their lectures around materials that will be on your exams, assignments, and tests. Take that information and run with it.