How To Take Notes Well

Sitting in a lecture for an hour or two can be pretty intense, and after a while your note-taking might start to get a bit lacklustre. However, when it comes to revision you’ll definitely regret putting your pen down after the first 20 minutes. So, instead of rushing to write down every word, and giving up when you realise it’s impossible, here are some tips to take notes well.

Focus on key words – Your lecturer will no doubt discuss a lot within a short space of time, and it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll be able to get every single word down. So, listen for key information (dates, theories, quotes, and so on) and note this down first. Then, if you get a chance, you can fill in the gaps with any extra information that will aid your learning – or, use a voice recorder, and add to your notes once the lecture is over.

If you have a particular essay question in mind, for instance, focus more carefully on ideas related to this, as this will come in extra handy in the future. Likewise, don’t write down information you already know – focus on new concepts that you’ll learn from, as that’s the whole point of going to a lecture…to learn!

Use shorthand – Be efficient with your note-taking! Abbreviate long words, and use symbols where you can. If there’s a particular phrase that you’re finding yourself writing again and again, try cutting it down.

However, there are definitely limits to this; you need to be able to understand your own writing when you look back at your notes, so only use shorthand that makes sense. And, try using similar abbreviations, or symbols, every time you attend a lecture, so that you’ll recognise them immediately.

Use colour-coding to make your notes visually appealing – Who said lectures can’t be fun? Bring some coloured pens or pencils with you, and make your notes look great!

Of course, this will take up more time, so you may want to save this for once the lecture is over. Or, just switch between two or three different colours (such as red for quotes, blue for theories, etc.) so that you don’t get super confused!

Make reference to any handouts – If your lecturer provides you with a handout, keep it by your side while you make notes. You could write on the handout itself, but you may find that you run out of room quite quickly.

So, I would suggest making your own notes separate, but numbering a point in your notes with a quote on the handout, for instance. Or, again, you could colour-code.

If you want any other tips on how to make the most out of a lecture, just click here.

How do you take notes? What works best for you?

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