Note Taking

These tips are general ideas that may or may not work for you. Give them a try and find out which ones work for you and your particular learning style. You'll be glad you did, especially at exam time.

Before Class

  • Complete assigned readings and projects.
  • Bring a three-ring binder—it is easier to add notes, add handouts, and take pages out to look at them together.
  • Bring a ball-point pen—pencils smear and are hard to read.
  • Choose a seat carefully when you get to class, one where you will be alert and where you can see and hear the professor well.
  • Review notes before class starts.

During Class

  • Label and date the page.
  • Use an outline of what the professor is saying, not word-for-word or paragraph style.
  • Use mind-maps. Draw a diagram of the concepts being taught with main ideas in the center and supporting ideas branching out from there.
  • Leave blank spaces—this is easier on your eyes than words crammed together, and it allows room for extra notes when reviewing.
  • Use different colors to take notes—colors help you visualize the organization of your notes.
  • Use symbols (be consistent so you remember what you have done). Examples: & (and) + (and or plus) - (minus) = (equal to) < (less than) > (greater than) # (number) % (percent).
  • Abbreviate commonly used words. Examples: w/ (with) gov't (government) ex. (example) OT (Old Testament) approx. (approximately) Tues. (Tuesday) @ (at) info. (information).
  • Note: When you make up a new abbreviation, write a key for it somewhere in your notes so you remember what it means.
  • Mark the notes that the professor stresses.
  • Phrases to listen for: “Know this material.” “You may see this again.” “This would make a good essay/matching/multiple choice question.” “This will be on the test.”
  • Listen for key words and mark them: repeated words or phrases, concepts written on the chalkboard or in PPT, ideas read directly from the professor's notes and technical terms.
  • When a professor repeats a sentence word for word, write it down.
  • If you like to doodle, draw pictures that illustrate the notes you are taking.
  • Develop a symbol to indicate confusing or missed material. Ask the professor about the notes you have marked with this symbol.
  • Ask questions.

After Class

  • Review your notes as soon as possible.
  • Fill in any blanks you left. Borrow someone else's notes if you missed notes in class or need to clarify something said in class.
  • Consider typing your notes. By doing this you make them more readable, and you are reviewing information as you type.


Email The Learning Center ( or call 574-372-5100, ext. 6421.