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Discover Tips for Taking Effective Class Notes in College

Vick Condecion

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The majority of information your professor presents in class will reflect the central concepts of the course you are studying. Your college lectures form a significant part of your course study material, too. The material presented will be a big clue as to focus of future assignments and exams, having a significant impact on your grade. Following are three tips to help you devise a system for taking class notes effectively.

1. Be prepared.

First, make sure you go to class. Don't skip lectures; they are far too important to miss. Find a seat in the class where you can hear well and see the board clearly. If information is important enough for your professor to write on the board, it's important for you to make a note of it.

Use a three ring binder for note taking so you can add or remove pages as needed. You can add handouts and any other relevant study aids to your notes here, too. Your ring binder will form a good central source of information for you to refer to later. If you're a prolific note taker, use a different binder for each term. It will be worth taking the time to index your notes and other learning matter so you can find them quickly when you need them.

2. Focus on quality over quantity.

You will need to find the right balance between taking notes and listening. If you try to write every single thing down, you may miss opportunities to grasp concepts or ask questions so you understand the information. Conversely, if you take sparse class notes, you may record too few key words and phrases and then not being able to understand them when you read your notes later.

Be accurate and thorough. Make sure you take down clear instructions about any assigned essays, including the formatting style that your professor wants you to use for citations. If you miss some of the information you feel you need to write down, ask your professor to repeat it. Highlight the content your professor may place emphasis on as being especially important to remember. You may find writing things in different color pens helpful for segregating information into categories.

If you can't keep up with what your professor says, ask if you can record the lecture. Most professors will be more than willing to allow recording to help you get the most out of their lectures.

3. Review, edit and transcribe your notes.

Research has found that people can recall 80% of new information if they go over it again within the first 24 hours. Whether you have written class notes or recorded information, transcribe and edit the notes within 24 hours while the lecture is still fresh in your mind. The act of writing or typing your notes or recordings will help you learn the key information and remember it when you need the knowledge most.

Creating a system for taking effective class notes will help you understand your subject better, making it easier to write strong essay outlines and papers, and improve your performance on tests. Organize your notes into a mini library of information for future reference that you can use as an additional study aid. In the process, flag key information that you think you may cite as a reference later. This will help you find the information quickly and adhere to the proper formatting style.

If you have Microsoft Office Home and Student then you already have a great note organizer in OneNote. Check it out!

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David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto or write to:

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).


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