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students in class

Taking Effective Notes

Note the essentials

  • Listen attentively in class and record what is emphasized or repeated
  • If the instructor writes something on the board, copy it down
  • When you’re taking notes out of a textbook, make sure you recognize the most important information (e.g. key terms and concepts)

Write brief and organized notes

  • Do not try to write down every word
  • Summarize the main points in an outline form, using bullets
  • Keep your notes neat and in order

Use the method that works best for you

  • Your notes should always be written in an organized format, so that you can understand them later when it is time to review for a test or an exam. The following are two examples of effective note-taking styles:
  • Cornell-style note taking
    • Take a ruler and draw a 2 ½ or 3 inch left margin on your sheet of paper. Take all notes on the right side of the margin line
    • After class, work with a friend and compare notes – ask questions and fill in any missing information. Make your notes as complete and accurate as possible
    • Read over your notes thoroughly and identify key terms and ideas
    • On the left side of the margin, write down these key words or ideas (opposite the complete notes)
    • Before a test, check to see how well you know the material – cover up the right side of the sheet and try to answer all key terms and questions written on the left side
  • Mind Maps
    • Use circle or block diagrams to organize your key ideas and link them together
    • Place the central topic in the centre of the page and the main ideas related to it on branches directly connected to it

Review after class

  • It is a good idea to look over your notes after class when your memory is still fresh
  • Underline, or highlight main ideas and concepts
  • Compare notes with a friend and fill in any missing information
  • Your notes should be as complete and accurate as possible