Notetaking Strategies: Before, During, and After Class

Here are some general tips to improve the quality of your notes in every class. Pick one or two from each category to try out right away. Click each button for more information.

Before Class

  • Read (or at least skim) the assigned chapter and previous sessions’ notes.
  • Sit where you can easily see and hear.
  • Turn of your cell phone to reduce distractions.
  • Have all of your materials (such as pens, paper, and textbook) handy.
  • Select the note taking system that works best for the class you’re attending.

During Class

  • Date and number reach page of your notes and identify the main topic.
  • Listen actively and focus clearly on the presentation.
  • Use abbreviates and codes to increase the speed of your writing.
  • Leave space between main ideas and when you miss an idea.
  • Record when the instructor emphasizes main ideas or details.

After Class

  • Compare notes with a classmate to check your own notes accuracy and understanding.
  • Review and edit your notes to fill in any missing details.
  • Summarize your notes with marginal phrases and identify potential test questions.
  • check your notes against the textbook.
  • Review your notes with 24 hours and before the next class.
  • Use your notes to write summaries and other guides for active learning.
  • Keep your notes in a secure place.

Whatever approach you use to make notes during a class session, remember that you must still engage in actively learning those notes as soon as possible. Collecting even excellent notes for several weeks and expecting to learn them right before the exam is a recipe for failure. Learning, like exercising to stay fit, cannot be done all at once!


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