How to Take Better Notes

Do you find yourself frustrated in class trying to take the perfect notes and write down everything your instructor says? Or are you so overwhelmed with information that you shut down and decide to abandon note-taking altogether? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then MEC is here to show you how to take the most helpful and efficient notes possible! 

Here are some of our favorite strategies to try out in your next class:

  1. Write Constantly: From the time your instructor begins speaking to the time he or she stops, you should be writing. It doesn’t matter if you know the information already, writing helps prevent the mind from wandering off into space. 

  2. Let go of perfectionism: Although I would love to leave class with perfectly color-coded, outlines, and fabulous-looking notes, the reality is that Professors get distracted, go off topic, or even skip slides. Save yourself a meltdown and use pencil IN class. You can convert your sloppy notes into a colorful, organized, pretty outline after class! BONUS: By going over your notes again and organizing them, you are actually retaining a lot more of the information! 

  3. Try to rephrase information as you write: When you get information and you write it down word-for-word, your brain is not really engaged. However, if you read notes from a PowerPoint slide, rephrase them into your own words, and write down your words, you are evaluating the information and then creating something of your own. This way, you are more likely to understand your notes in the future!

  4. Try to attach an image to each concept: Let’s face it, definitions are boring. You will never remember what was covered in class if you leave with a notebook full of generic definitions. If your instructor gives you an example or a story, write it down, draw a picture, create a little graphic. Whatever you can do to attach that new concept with something that you already know or understand will help you remember the concept and see how it applies to real-life events. HINT: If your instructor doesn’t give you an example then ASK for one! 

  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: When you come across something you don’t understand, don’t just jot it down and tell yourself that you’ll worry about it later — ask the instructor for clarification. if you find something confusing now, you’ll find it twice as confusing during your note-review later. Plus, other students in the class probably have the same question but are too afraid to ask. 

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