20 Successful Tips on Note-Taking for Undergraduate Students

How to Succeed In Note-Taking For Undergraduate Students

Taking effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help you recall important information when you review them, writing things down can also help keep it in your memory and remember it more quickly. Being able to take good notes is also a way of training your brain to identify important information. And it’s vital no matter what college degree you’re pursuing.

For example, a career in the business world will likely involve a lot of meetings with important information, and you’ll need to take notes to remember everything that was discussed. In healthcare fields, being able to listen and recall is one of the most important traits to develop, especially when dealing with patients—and note-taking skills are the way to grow that talent.


One of the most important note taking tips for college is all about what happens before your pen hits the paper or fingers hit the laptop. Preparation is key to taking more efficient, effective notes.

Make sure you read your assignment before coming to class. Be thorough in your reading, make sure you fully understand concepts and take note of any questions you might have about the material.

Having some understanding or awareness of the material beforehand will help you process the information and take cohesive notes that you’ll be able to use later. Plus, it’s probably what your teacher expects from you anyway. You’ll be able to participate more easily in the discussion, which will further cement the information in your mind and help you do better on exams.


Learning how to take notes in college starts with organization. Separate your notes by beginning each lecture on a new page. It’s important to date each new lecture and number your pages. After class, make sure you go back to add a topic/heading to the top of each page. This will make it much easier for you to find relevant information when you’re studying. After all, you are taking notes so you’ll be able to study in the future, and you want to be able to easily search the material.

If you have other ideas on how to organize your notes, feel free to give it a try. The best way to organize notes in college is to find what works for you, so sometimes a little personalization can make all the difference.


One of the best ways to take hand-written notes is to make sure you have plenty of room to keep the information legible and organized. Having plenty of space will allow you to go back and write additional thoughts as they come to you. In order to ensure you have plenty of room, consider writing on only one side of the paper. This will make it easier to read the notes and give you a chance to add more information on the back, if needed.

It’s ideal to use loose-leaf notebooks, because they’re easier to organize when you review. You’ll be able to rearrange your notes, insert additional materials (like handouts and study guides), and insert notes you borrow from study partners or classmates.

Don’t try to use up all the available space on each page. Give yourself room to go back and add information as your instructor continues to talk or write extra notes when you make connections in class.


It’s easy to get into the zone while you’re taking notes, only to look down and realize you don’t even know what you wrote. If you try to transcribe your teacher’s lecture, you have no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together, and you inevitably fall behind and get frustrated.

For better results, make sure you think about everything the instructor is saying before you write anything down. This means not writing down every single word your instructor says. As you listen and write, think about what information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or for completing a project. Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading. And during class, listen for verbal cues from your instructor that indicate important information.


Inevitably, you won’t understand every aspect of the information when you hear it for the first time. Asking questions is a crucial part of learning. So as you listen and write, make sure to record your questions. Did you raise your hand and ask the teacher to clarify anything? Write that down. Do you have questions you didn’t get a chance to ask? Write those down too.

This will help you stay aware of potential gaps in your understanding. You’ll be able to better focus on those parts of the material when reviewing your notes later, and know which information to look up in order to help strengthen what you’ve learned.

Also, while you’re studying or reviewing notes later, ask questions and write down questions as they come up. You can take these notes to your teacher to get the answers and clarify your notes.


Everybody has a different note organization system. Outlining? Numbered paragraphs? A mind-map? Charts and graphs? There’s no right way to organize, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Think about the way that best reflects how you listen, how you think, and how you process information.

The best way to take notes on a laptop may be different from the best way to take notes on paper, so it’s also okay to tailor your system to the mode you’re using. Some students prefer to take notes on a laptop during class, but would rather write on paper while studying.

If a method isn’t working for you, switch to a different one—even in the middle of class. The sooner you find your groove, the sooner you’ll be able to make the most of your notes and be more successful in class.


After the lecture, go through your notes. Consider leaving space on each page or after each important section of class for a short summary of the material you covered, written in your own words. This can help you process the information by making you think it through, ensuring you understand it.

Reviewing your notes also helps you remember the material, underscores the instructor’s lecture, lets you add things you want to make sure you don’t forget, and gives you time to organize material that is connected.

You may even want to go the extra mile and turn your notes into flashcards or teach the material to a friend or family member. Teaching is a great way to ensure you truly understand the material, and it will give you a chance to process all of the information you’ve written down in a new, fresh way.

Be prepared

If you really mean to take note in class, then you must ensure that you make do preparation to do so. Know the courses you have to take class for that day and get your notes prepared with the notes. Also ensure you have a pen with you, you know a small thing as not having a pen can disturb you, and do not always assume that your friend will have an extra pen. Get ready with all the needed materials for the class. What could you need in the process of taking down notes during class? Get it ready with you. You could even decide to take along with you more than one pen. Prepare as much as possible to limit to the minimal your need to borrow anything. Be proactive.

Sit in front

Oh, if you really want to hear the lecturer well, then you need to find a good place to sit in front. Do not form a habit of staying at the back. For you to be able to have a good place to sit in class, you should ensure you get there on time. If you belong to a class where you have so many students and you want the best class experience including being able to hear clearly all that you need to jot down, then go early to class and find a good place to sit in front. If situation will demand that you tell someone to help you get a seat, then do and try as much as possible to be there on time to take the seat.

Be prompt

For you to be able to jot from the very beginning of the class and to get the all the important things starting from the introduction of the lecture, it is important for you to get there early. You do not want to be struggling to catch up because of lateness. The best thing is to be an early bird, make sure you are able to take note of every relevant information right from the start of the class till the end. Every necessary detail should be captured in your note.

Use abbreviations

It may be quite tasking to keep with the pace of some lecturers when they are dictating, and you are taking down the note. One of the things you can learn to use which can be of help is to use abbreviations. If there is a short form to represent something, why bug yourself to write in full while trying to write fast? You should just go ahead and use the abbreviation. After all, your note belongs to you and it’s not likely there will be any marking of your note. Write using abbreviations that you can understand.

Sit near a fast friend

You know there might be times you will miss out on some of the notes being dictated by the lecturer, you might just leave the space and move on, once there is a little chance, you can quickly crosscheck with the person beside you and complete your own note. Try to sit near someone who can write fast so you can easily use his or her note to complete yours.

Be attentive

Ensure you pay necessary attention to what is being taught, do not stay in a place where you will be distracted. Don’t allow your mind to wander off, ensure that you are really present in class with your mind alert and picking every information you ought to pick.

Work on your writing speed

Taking notes during lectures will demand that you write fast, so endeavour to improve on your writing speed. The faster you are able to take notes down, the better; the slower you are, the more you will be lost during the dictation.

Use space meaningfully

Keep your page organized so you know where to find what you’re looking for. Of course, if you’re typing your notes you can always go back and clean them up later.

Use a good notebook

Is there a bad notebook? The simple advice here is just to use a note that is easy to write with in class.

Record the lecture

This is a very good one, but it can only be applicable where it is possible and practicable. If you find out you can record the lecture, why not take the opportunity and record. Recording is so good, you can go back and listen to the record, adjust and update your note as appropriate.

Put a label on it.

Some students jog their memories by labeling every page at the top with the date, class/teacher (if class notes), title/author (if from reading), or even significant happenings of the day.

Note-taking is a very god practice, you can always go back to your note as a reference material. When you have to study for tests and examinations, then you won’t be stranded. The earlier you began to take comprehensive and updated notes starting from the beginning of the semester in all your courses, the better. Don’t be careless about it, imagine if every student was waiting for the other person to write an updated and comprehensive note, then who would? Do your very best to be that student with a well organised and updated note. One quick advice:

Keep your notes

Of what use will it be if you had taken the pain to write your note so well and then you got it missing and cannot find it? That won’t be palatable at all. In as much as you are careful about taking notes, take good care to keep the notes intact and accessible.

In case you are unable to have a good and updated note, and probably you find that examinations are by the corner, then you might use this tip:

Borrow a friend’s note

You know it’s actually not the best, but if you have to, it is better to do so than to be stranded. Borrow a friend’s note, you could either decide to make a photocopy of the note or you can read through it while jotting down in your own way.

Also, ensure that all the notes you take, you go through them, but also make use of other materials that might have been provided for the course. Use everything as appropriate and do your best to guarantee success.

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