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Student Notetaking Strategies

Person writing in notebook.

Taking lecture notes can be a frustrating, almost overwhelming, task. So why bother trying to take lecture notes?

  • Most people forget about 80% of what they've learned within two weeks; therefore, it is important that you take good lecture notes.
  • Information presented in class often contains the central concepts of the course and the material most likely to be included on exams.
  • Can help students become an active part of the learning process rather than a passive listener.
  • Taking notes can help students to concentrate in class.

Here are some suggestions that may improve your notetaking skills.

  • Read your assignment before class. Note taking comes easier when you already have some understanding or awareness of the material.
  • Avoid transcribing notes (writing every word the instructor says) in favor of writing condensed notes in your own words.
  • Think while you write! Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading.
  • Pay attention to cues from the instructor and prioritize information. Instructors often give signals during class about what’s important (which doesn’t always include saying “write this down, it’s important!”). Look for cues such as:
    • Material written on the blackboard or whiteboard
    • Repetition
    • Emphasis through tone of voice, body language, number of examples, or time spent on a subject
    • Word signals (such as “first, second, third...” or “Now we’ll discuss...”)
    • Reviews, summaries, lists, and questions
  • Avoid the misperception that you know lecture content better than you actually do, which can lead to poor study habits. While course topics may appear easy to understand in class, they may be rather difficult as you are reviewing them several weeks later while preparing for the exam.
  • Review your notes on the same day you created them and then on a regular basis, rather of cramming your review into one long study session prior to an exam.
  • Test yourself on the content of your notes by using flashcards. Testing yourself informs you what you do not yet know from your notes and successful recall of tested information improves your ability to recall that information later (you will be less likely to forget it).

Additional Resources:

  • Notetaking Tips (PDF)
  • Please contact your Accessibility Coordinator if you need additional assistance with notetaking.

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