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How to take great notes in class


We’ve all been there – your tutor is talking to the whole class about something you need to write an essay on, and you’re frantically trying to take notes. The more stressed you get, the faster she seems to speak and before you know it either your arm feels like it’s been run over or your writing is so messy even Scotland Yard couldn’t make out what it says.

If you’re thinking there must be an easier way, well yes, you’re right. Or at least there are several ways to make the whole process a lot easier…

Rule no. 1 – Don’t try and write every word you hear! This is a classic mistake. It’s tempting to try so that you don’t accidentally miss out the important points, but in reality it’s impossible. Listen to what they are saying and write down the key points as you hear them. List them as bullet points in the first place, and then if you have time, go back and add any extra information where you think it’s needed.

Rule no. 2 – Have some different coloured pens or a highlighter ready. The idea is you write the main points down in blue or black ink, and then any additional thoughts you have that you don’t want to forget, you can write in a different colour or highlight. That way when you come back to the notes you’ll know what information the tutor gave you and what your own interpretations were. You’ll find this really useful when it comes to writing an essay or revising for an exam.

Rule no. 3 – If you’re working from a textbook, use post it notes or a pencil to make notes in the margin. That way you don’t need to write the points out twice on to a new sheet – just circle the main point and annotate it.

Rule no. 4 – Summarise things in your own words. It’s important to understand what you’re writing so making notes in your own words will help you to do this. Also, if you think of any tricks or tips along the way, such as how to remember something, then write that down too! Remember, they’re your notes, so make them personal!

Rule no. 5 – Finally, don’t assume if you are given handouts that you don’t need to make notes. Handouts are just a guide to help you remember the key points that were discussed. They’ll be no use on their own for future work, so grab that pen and get annotating!

Good luck with your note taking and remember, the better the notes you make, the easier your job will be later down the line!

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