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Note Taking in Class

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Guide to Note Taking in Class

Taking good notes in class is essential for remembering the information you learn, information that could be invaluable during an exam. 60% of information is lost after just 9 hours, so writing good notes can really help you to retain it. Some students prefer to just sit there and listen during lectures, but this should hopefully encourage them to take down notes and do so effectively. The Ultimate Guide to Note Taking in Class Infographic lists some of the ways that can help students take better notes in class, something that should come in handy when it comes to essay writing and exams. There’s no correct way to take notes – but here are some popular methods to try.

Outline method

Ideas are written out in an organised layout based on space indentation.

Ideal for:

  • When presentation outlines (such as slides) have already been provided.
  • Taking notes from written material.

Things to consider:

  • Main points can be easily turned into questions during review time.
  • Doesn’t show relationships or connectedness between arguments.

Cornell method

A divided notes page system developed by Dr Walter Pauk of Cornell University.

Ideal for:

  • Producing and remembering summaries of key ideas from lectures.
  • Preparing and revising for exams.

Things to consider:

  • Printable Cornell notepaper is available online.
  • This method requires extra time to complete the summary column.

When reviewing your notes:

  • Turn the key words/ideas in the cues column into questions.
  • Cover up your notes.
  • Try answering the questions from memory.


Ideas are visually connected in a non-linear manner

Ideal for:

  • Content heavy lectures

Things to consider:

  • Can be neatened up later by recreating the map on a program such as
  • May be difficult if unsure of lecture structure in advance.

General tips

  • Before the lecture: Read the relevant textbook chapters and/or review the slides. You’ll become familiar with the topic and can identify the key ideas easier.
  • During the lecture:
    – Don’t write down everything, and always paraphrase what you hear.
    – Use shorthand, abbreviations and symbols.
    – Listen for cues to important points: repetition, changes in voice inflection from lecturer.
    – For large lecture halls, sit as close to the front as possible.
  • After the lecture: Review your notes within 24 hours, identify any gaps in understanding, and consult your lecturer, classmates or textbook for help.

Be prepared, stay focused and follow-up with revision. With good practice, you’ll become a noteworthy student in no time.


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