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How to Take Efficient and Effective Notes

Skill Development

Taking notes is truly an art form; especially in college, when you’re trying to balance information between lectures, powerpoints and readings. Of these, lectures are important because they will serve as the basic outline for your notes, which can then be filled with the most important information from readings and other outside sources that are recommended by your professor. Most professors are kind in that they won’t test you on material not discussed in class – therefore it’s safe to assume that lectures will help you discern what information is fair game for exams and what isn’t.


First off, while taking notes in class, use a black pen, that way you can distinguish these notes from any supplemental information gathered from the book. Make sure not to underline or highlight your notes until you review them on another day. This will allow you to focus more in class and will provide you with a blank canvas when reviewing the information at a later date.


Always write the date at the top of the page as well as the title of the lecture – this way you can easily organize them later on.

  •     Subheadings – Your professor will typically give each section of the lecture a subheading featured on their PowerPoint. Make sure that instead of just copying down the information shown; focus on taking notes based off of what the lecturer is saying. This is especially important if your professor posts the powerpoints online – then you could just easily copy down those into your notes later on.
  •     Indentations – Using indentions within your notes can make it much easier to identify key topics or example problems as you read your notes later on.
  •     Symbols and Shorthand – Using symbols can help reduce the amount of time spend on writing out long, unnecessary words. Just make sure you make use symbols that you’re familiar with, that way you don’t get confused later on. Some good examples are right-angle arrows to indicate consequences for the point that is mentioned before, or the three dot symbol () to indicate “therefore”.

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