How to take good notes in college

Updated at 14 Jun 2022

Going to college is like playing a videogame. High school courses and tests were small bosses you could defeat with lower-level equipment.

If you want to succeed in college, you will need to upgrade the items that you have with you. This is a new adventure, my friend.

Girl writes notes in college

Your notes are one of the essential tools you have. You might have been a good note-taker in high school, but now you must improve your skills. Perhaps you feel like I did in college and have realized that you have never learned how to take notes properly.

Don't worry! This is your guide to making great, practical notes. You can no longer look back at notes you made in class or try to figure out helpful information before taking a test.

This guide will discuss preparing for class and some of the most popular methods to take notes. It will also cover the best ways to make the most of your notes after class.

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Be prepared before you go to class.

"Learning is influenced by what the learner already knows" - David Ausubel.

Before you go to class, ensure that you have read or skimmed all the pre-assigned reading from professors. Then, even if you don't have an assigned task, you can still familiarize yourself with the subject before class.

taking good Biology notes

A 2004 study by Spies & Wilkin showed that law students who had to read a legal case before attending class had a better understanding than those who weren't expected to.

Don't forget all the materials you will need to learn efficiently. You will need multiple pencils, a backup lead, a notebook, highlighters, sticky notes, and pens.

Water is essential! You might be tempted to bring coffee or other caffeine to class. Avoid getting coffee or any other caffeine to class. Although coffee does not dehydrate you and can help you stay awake and alert, caffeine dependence can affect your ability to pay attention in class.

Finally, grab something to eat before you leave the house for class. Avoid high-salt and high-sugar snacks and opt for "complete snacks," " including fat, carbs, and protein.

You can also choose peanut butter, apples, cheese, crackers, and cheese.

Or certain power bars. These snacks will keep you fuller for longer and prevent you from being distracted by your professor's lecture about the structure of cells.

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The Note-Taking Mindset

Your brain is another thing that you need to be in order before attending class. A positive attitude and a good mood are two of the best things you can do to increase your chances of learning.

I wouldn't say I like math. On the contrary, math is my worst nightmare. I am the worst math student. I failed three times in my high school algebra courses. This is how bad I am at math!

My college-level algebra class was what kept me from finishing my associate's program when I arrived at college. I resolved to pass the class.

I arrived at work daily with a positive attitude and tried to make friends. I also made efforts to study with a classmate. I also paid attention to the lectures, solving problems as I went along.

Although I didn't get an A, I did receive a B...which was my highest math score since elementary school.

The moral of the story is that Attitude is everything.

Quick tip If you notice that your professor repeatedly mentions the same fact or repeats a point from the previous lecture, take a note. It's a signal to your brain to pay more attention.

It will be essential in the future. Watch out for repetition.

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These are the 6 Best Note-Taking Software

Let's now talk about popular note-taking methods. Everybody learns differently, and different subjects lend themselves to different learning styles.

Do not be afraid to try different techniques until you find the one that works for you.

Structured: The Outline

This is the best option for those who love simplicity. This is a great way to take notes and is very easy for most people.

Start by selecting four to five key points that you will cover in your lecture. Then, as the professor discusses each topic, add sub-points to these points.

If you are taking outline notes by hand, leave enough space for your sub-points. You can also take them with you and arrange them in your text document.

This is a simple and effective way to take notes. This will help you follow the class and pay attention, but it can be not easy to go back and review your notes.

You can review these notes by reading each point and then summarizing them without having to look at the notes. You can use your notes to see how much you know, rather than rereading them repeatedly.

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Review: The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is an excellent way to divide your notes if you want to make the most of your review time.

This method divides your paper into three sections: notes, cues, and a summary.

The Cornell Method notes

Your notes section contains the notes that you took during class. They can be arranged however you wish, but most prefer the outline method.

Your cues section can be written during class or immediately after. This section can contain main points, people, or possible test questions. In addition, this section can be used to provide cues that will help you recall more significant ideas.

Your summary section can be written immediately after class or later while reviewing your notes. This section will summarize the lecture.

Your summary and cue sections should be as brief as possible. You can fill the notes section with diagrams, doodles, and page references to help you properly present the material in class.

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In-Depth: The Mind Map

The mind map is an excellent way of taking notes on specific subjects. Class subjects like chemistry, history, and philosophy with interlocking topics or complex, abstract ideas are perfect for this method. However, you better use the mind map to understand how specific topics relate or go in-depth with one thought.

The Mind Map

If you are attending a lecture on the Fall of the Rome Empire, begin with this concept in the middle and then draw "nodes" of all the events that led to Rome's collapse as your professor lists them. Such as debt, irresponsible Emperors, attacks by the surrounding barbarian tribes, and so forth.

You can review the branch later and add sub-concepts to it. Branching is excellent for dates, formulas, supporting facts, and related concepts.

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Holistic: Flow Notes

This note-taking technique is ideal for students who want to maximize their active learning in the classroom and reduce their review time later. In addition, flow notes are a way to treat yourself as a student and not as if you were a lecture-transcribing machine.

Write down your ideas, draw arrows, and make little diagrams and graphs. Go crazy. Engage with the material. Actively learn from the material as you write.

You might be in history class, and your professor mentions the Battle of Hastings. These facts can be written down and connected.

This one is limitless. This is great for those who don't like rules.

While this method is excellent for learning right now, it can make it difficult to go back and review the flow notes later. Maybe this works well for you if you are a visual and auditory learner who retains much from lectures. Pair your flow notes with the Cornell Method to make them easier to review for tests.

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Slides are easy to write on

Let's face it, this is note-taking by lazy people... and there's nothing wrong! It's the contrary; it's convenient and easy.

If your professor gives you the slides they use in their lectures, download them and print them at the computer lab. You can save time by using the slides to outline.

You already have the professor's help! Next, you need to take notes and elaborate on the key concepts presented in the slides.

This works well because you can later look at the slide to recall what the professor said when they made that slide. It's almost like a walkthrough of the lecture. You didn't even have to do anything to get it.

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Visual-Bullet Journaling

This is my personal favorite. This is the style of note-taking I use the most, both inside and outside the classroom.

This method may be the best for you if you are an artist, a visual learner, or a fan of aesthetics.

Visual-Bullet Journaling

By writing in it, you can transform a blank page with your bullet diary into a stunning representation of your thoughts and ideas. In addition, you can combine elements of different note-taking styles with it.

One page can be dedicated to mind mapping, while another is for flow notes. You could even include a class schedule, or a sketch of Sonic the Hedgehog, on one page. It's your bullet notebook. You can do whatever you like; I don't even know! It's your diary!

This method has its drawbacks. First, it can be hard to take notes quickly. Bullet journaling's goal is to organize and make your journal attractive. This can be difficult when trying to jot down as much information as possible.

You can combat this by taking notes in class using an outline or another method and organizing them later in your bullet diary as a form review.

Do you need ideas on how your journal should look? You can find inspiration by searching Pinterest or Google for 'BuJo ideas' or, more specifically, 'BuJo Ideas for Students.' There is tons of great stuff!

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