This guide is designed to assist you in enhancing your note-taking abilities.


Effective note taking is one of the keys for students success.

Students should devote a considerable amount of time reviewing information discussed during classroom lectures.

It is very difficult to remember specific details from classroom lectures without good notes.

Abbreviations and Symbols

Since teachers usually cover a lot of information during each lecture, it can be hard to write down everything important they say.

This is why we recommend using symbols and that you abbreviate long words and use short phrases in your notes when possible, such as & (and), w/o (without), eg (for example), ie (that is).


Notes organized by date, class, and subject make it easier to locate specific lecture details.

It is also a good idea to keep information from different dates and classes separated or to begin each class with a new piece of paper.

A good format for organizing your notes is the Cornell System for Taking Notes.

Importance of Neat Writing

The most copious notes will be of no benefit if you can't read them.

This is why it is important to use good penmanship when taking notes. It is also recommended that you leave space in margins and near key concepts in your notepad, so you can add important details relating to previous lecture topics that are addressed during future lectures.

No matter how intelligent a student is, from time to time they're bound get confused and end up having questions unanswered by the lecture.

For this reason, it is a good idea to write down questions to ask after class, or during subsequent lectures. You can also answer your own questions through a web search, a tutor, other student or by using reference books.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your studying and performance on exams, it's imperative to learn how to take good notes. Effective note taking is a key element of the formula for success for successful students.

Make sure to take legible and accurate notes since it is not uncommon to forget key details discussed during class after it has ended.

Frequently, students comprehend the teacher's lecture and think they'll remember everything, so they neglect to jot down specific details. They later find that they can't recall what they needed to remember.

Students who keep accurate notes can review them later to review key points, recall necessary detail, solidify knowledge and study up on concepts they didn't fully comprehend during the lecture.

Additionally, since teachers frequently cover many topics during the course of their lectures, effective notes enable students to concentrate on specific topics that are most relevant.

The Cornell System for Taking Notes

The Cornell system for taking notes is designed to: 1. save time while 2. enabling students to maximize the effectiveness of their note taking.

In this system there is no rewriting, revising or retyping of your notes once they've been made. The Cornell note taking system is sometimes referred to as the "Do it Right In The First Place" system. It was devised by Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University during the 1950s. The Cornell system for taking notes consists of the following steps:

Step 1 - Divide your paper into two columns

Use a large loose-leaf notebook for your note taking. Only use one side of each leaf of paper in the notebook (this will enable you to lay your notes out to see the direction of a lecture). Draw a vertical line 2 1/2 inches from the left side of you paper. This is the recall column of your notes. All your lecture notes will be taken to the right of this margin. Later, keywords or phrases can be written in the recall (left) column.

Step 2 - Take notes in the note-taking column

Record notes in paragraph form in the note-taking column to the right. Capture general ideas and concepts, not illustrative ideas. Skip lines to show end of ideas or thoughts. Try to avoid long sentences. Using abbreviations will save time. Write as legibly as possible. Note down relevant questions and keywords in the recall (left) column to assist with future reviews of your notes.

Step 3 - Review your notes within 24 hours

After each lecture read through your notes and make them more legible if necessary. Now use the 2 1/2 inches column to the left of your notes. Jot down ideas or keywords which give you the idea of the lecture. (REDUCE) You will have to reread the lecturer's ideas, reflect and put them in your own words if you can. Cover up the right-hand portion of your notes and recite the general ideas and concepts of the lecture from memory. Overlap your notes showing only recall columns and use this for your review.


These note taking strategies will help you to take better notes:

  • Make clear and accurate notes
  • Come to class prepared
  • Compare your notes
  • Minimize distractions
  • Organize your notes
  • Use abbreviations and symbols
  • Write clearly
  • Review your notes
  • Write down questions

Video Resources

How to Take Great Notes

How to Take Notes from a Textbook Effectively

Cornell Method to organize your note

The Cornell Notes Method

Tips for Taking Notes

Remain Ready at All Times

Students properly prepared for class usually take better notes than those who come unprepared. Proper preparation includes completing assigned reading prior to class and reviewing notes from previous lectures.

Students who review their notes from previous lectures:

  • will have a better context for learning new topics presented in the next lecture,
  • can ask questions about confusing concepts they didn't quite understand from the previous lecture.

To ensure your notes are as accurate and detailed as possible, compare them with the notes of other students after class is over. This is useful because your colleagues will frequently write down lecture details that you forgot or missed. This strategy will make classroom notes more thorough and precise.

Effective note takers avoid classroom distractions. This can include sitting in spots with fewer distractions and not signing up for classes with friends that you might want to talk with during lectures. Some students will even sit in spots where it is difficult to constantly glance at the clock.

In order to retain information discussed during lectures, it is best to review notes immediately after class. This will help you better understand the lecture, your notes, and it will enable you to focus on what you just learned for long-term retention.

You should review your notes a second time just before your next lecture. This will help refresh in your mind important topics and concepts, and prepare you for the next lecture. You should continue to review your notes on a regular basis between your lectures and your exams.