How to Take Effective Notes in College

The mere fact that you’re taking down notes means you wanted to retain the information. It’s important to take effective notes, or you’re wasting your time. Notes should be concise, highlight the most important parts of the chapter or lecture, and include references as to why you deemed them important. Too long and you’ll never read them, too short and you won’t remember what you were talking about.

Best Practices for Notetaking

  • Identify what’s new to you. There is no point writing down something that you already know. Why will you write down the information you’ve known from the heart?
  • Determine whether your professor will most likely use the information later. Focus on things that directly demonstrate the lesson you’re studying including pertinent names, places and dates.
  • Tricky information. We all know our professors try to trigger our logical mind by setting out traps and tricky questions in their examination. Often the answers to these traps are given out during their lectures – not in the book. If you are particularly keen about observing such habits then it will be easier for you to crack it down.
  • Side comments. Sometimes, side comments are ignored or considered unnecessary. However, most practical questions and answers can be found on side comments whether during lectures or books. Listen to the questions your peers are asking, and the information the professor gives them.
  • Doubts. Your doubts and questions are the best source of useful information especially when you are faced with a tough exam ahead. There is not a single student in existence without questions about a certain lesson. If you have doubts, write it down and verify it in your research later.

What You Should Include in Your Notes

  • Dates for your notes need to be in chronological order so you can understand the entire event
  • Names for you to associate the events or ideas better
  • Theories which essentially are the main key points
  • Definition of things that is new to you
  • Points of arguments and debates such as pros and cons, criticisms of an idea and both sides of the coin.
  • Illustrations and exercises

While not technically notes, write down all your questions as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor and get you the answers you need.