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Note Taking Skills

Note taking is an essential part of student success. While instructors tend to rely only on oral teaching, the majority of students are visual learners. This means that in order to absorb the message, you should efficiently and accurately document what you hear and see. This module will give you the tools to more efficiently and effectively take notes, no matter what class.

What To Do Before Class

Contrary to popular belief, effective note taking begins prior to class and includes doing the following:
  1. Read and annotate your textbook (see below)
  2. Prepare questions about what you read in your textbook
  3. Review the notes from your previous class

Textbook page with notes, highlights, and flags

What to Actually Write Down

Writing down everything that the instructor says in class would be time-consuming and not the best use of your energy. Knowing what is important is the first step in efficient note-taking.

How do I know what the teacher is saying is something I should write?

Often, instructors will give a number of cues that indicate information is note-worthy. Here are some of those cues:

  1. Repeats information
  2. Changes the volume of his/her voice
  3. Says cue words like, "Remember," "First," "The most important thing is," and "Finally"
  4. Writes information on the board

Other Tips

How you take notes can be as important as what notes you take.
  1. Use color and visual cues (symbols, boxes, underline) to set off important info
  2. Write legibly
  3. Keep information organized
  4. Use consistent abbreviations so you can take notes quickly