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16 Effective Note Taking Tips: Before, During & After Class

Write It Right

One of the essential study skills that kids and teens have to learn is writing good notes. Note taking is a skill that students can use in many aspects of life.

However, most students do not take appropriate notes and therefore, haven’t developed this skill.

Note taking provides benefits such as recording information in a class discussion that students use to review for exams, prepare assignments or complete projects. Its benefit extends to keeping the body and mind active by listening carefully, understanding the important details and organising the content.

Did You Know?


Even if you have a good memory, you will not be able to remember everything from the class discussion if you don’t take notes.

This chapter discusses everything you need to learn before, during, and after a class discussion to ensure effective notes.

Before Class

Here are the things you can do before the class starts to improve the quality of your notes.

1. Review the content

Prepare for note taking by reviewing the content before the week begins. It is important to read or skim over the assigned material before you go to class.

2. Use a note taking system

Follow a note-taking system that is suitable for you. The Split-Page Method or Cornell Method is the most recommended system of note-taking.

The Cornell note has three basic parts: Cues for keywords and questions (column on the left), Notes for writing the content (column on the right), and Summary for generalising ideas (bottom part).

Apart from writing notes quickly, another advantage is that you may not need to rewrite your notes after class. There are several note-taking systems that are designed for different learning areas. Discover that note-taking system that works best for the class.

effective note taking tips - before class - tutor2you

3. Prepare the materials

Prepare the materials you need while taking notes such as pens, highlighters, papers, and books.

effective note taking tips - before class - prepare pens - tutor2you
effective note taking tips - before class - use of highlighters - tutor2you
effective note taking tips - before class - use of notebooks - tutor2you
effective note taking tips - before class - prepare books - tutor2you

4. Sit in front

Sit in front of the classroom. Sitting in front helps you avoid distractions and helps you to become a better listener. Research has shown that students who sit towards the front of a classroom achieve better results.

During Class

Here are the key points to remember once you are ready to take great notes.

1. Write the date and main topic

Write down the date and main topic or title on each page. It helps you to look for that specific detail when reviewing and keeps your notes organised.

2. Create an outline

The teacher may provide the lesson outline for the day, be sure to take note of it. If not, create your own outline of the lesson by identifying the main points and knowing how the lesson is structured. Use it to guide you to understand the topic better.

3. Don't write down every word that the teacher says

Do not attempt to write every word that the teacher says. Pay attention to key points. Trying to write down every word results in missing important details and getting behind the lesson. The whole point of notetaking is to be able to summarise information in a different, shorter form to use later.

effective note taking tips - during class - tutor2you

4. Know what is important

effective note taking tips - during class - know what is important - tutor2you

Write down everything that the teacher writes on the board. It indicates that such details are important in the discussion. Be sure to copy examples the teacher provided, draw graphs or diagrams the teacher used to illustrate a certain detail and write all relevant questions asked during the lesson.

5. Be an active listener

Record when the instructor emphasises the main ideas or details. There is a high chance that you should start writing when the teacher says, “This is important”, “You need to know this” or “This will be included in the test”. Listen carefully when the teacher starts to speak loudly or with emphasis. It implies that you should write down that important part.

effective note taking tips - during class - be an active listener - tutor2you

6. Write legibly

You should be able to read your own writing. In addition to that, it would take too much time to review notes when its scribbled down. If you always practice writing, your handwriting will eventually improve.

7. Highlight keywords or phrases

Use coloured pens and highlighters to emphasise the main parts of the lesson. If you don’t have the materials, mark an important word or phrase with a star ().

8. Use symbols and abbreviations

There are times that the information comes too fast that you cannot write the full words. Increase the speed of your writing by using symbols and abbreviations. Examples are w/ for with, w/out for without, # for number and vs for versus. You may also make your own symbols and abbreviations but be sure to be consistent, so you would understand it when you review your notes again.

9. Ask when you don't understand

If there’s a part of the lesson that you don’t understand, be sure to clarify it by asking questions in the class or after the discussion with the teacher.

After Class

Here are three tips to do with your notes immediately after class.

1. Compare notes

Compare your notes with your classmates to know if you have written the correct information.

effective note taking tips - after class - review note - tutor2you

2. Rewrite notes

Write down the lesson summary. Check if you have written all relevant details and fill in any missing details. Ensure a well organised note for active learning.

3. Review notes

Review your notes while the information is still fresh in your mind. Avoid reviewing your notes before the exam day, instead review regularly to avoid cramming.

Good notes should be accurate, clear and concise. They should show the organisation of the content and the relationship between ideas. Research has shown that students who do a good job of taking notes could see a one or two letter grade improvement in most of their classes.

Encouraging your child to read his/her written notes aloud into a voice recorder can help them remember important information.

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