Taking notes can be a daunting task, and it can be critical to passing a class. Here are the best tips we have for making the most of your note-taking.
Before the Lecture:
Do your homework and reading assignments. This will reinforce your understanding of the previous lecture and prepare you for the upcoming lecture.
Check your syllabus to see what the next lecture will cover. Review the applicable sections in your textbook.
If the professor has provided lecture material prior to class, download and print. Give them a thorough read and use them to help you structure your notes before class.
Write down any questions you have from the homework, reading, or lecture materials to ask the professor in class.
Pick a seat which is front and center! This is doubly important for large lecture halls. You’ll be able to hear the professor better, your view of the presentation will be unobstructed, the professor will be able to hear your questions, and it makes a good impression.
During the Lecture:
Your posture affects your focus, so sit up straight, toward the edge of the chair.
You will not have time to write down everything the professor says word-for-word. Instead, listen for introductory/transition words and phrases like “the following,” “in conclusion,” “most importantly,” “in addition,” “on the other hand,” “this means” etc.
Pay attention to any keywords, formulas, concepts, etc., that you noted during the pre-lecture prep.
If the professor writes it on the board, underlines it or highlights it, speaks more slowly or loudly than usual, or repeats something, it’s probably important and should be included in your notes.
Ask questions! If the professor doesn’t make it easy to ask questions during the lecture, write them down and ask them after class.
After the Lecture:
As soon as possible after your class ended (no longer than 24 hours later) take time to do a thorough review of your notes, as well as organize and clarify them. The sooner you revise your notes, the better, especifically if the class is hard or covered a lot of information.
Rewrite your notes to be more legible and aesthetically pleasing. This will give you a preliminary review while also making your notes easier to understand.
Review your notes on a weekly basis. You may prefer to plan in advance the days and times you’ll do your reviews.