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Take Note: Note Taking Strategies for Students

There Are Multiple Types of Note Taking Strategies

It is an exciting prospect to embark on a new educational goal. Achieving that goal, however, often takes more than intelligence or skill. It requires course-taking ability. It is a process to translate the information provided by your professor into knowledge you can use effectively on papers and during exams.

Note taking strategies are different methods for recording and assimilating important information.

A laptop may seem like an ideal choice, but studies have demonstrated that those who use technology in class often become mere scribes, taking down the words verbatim without retention or understanding.

The Advantage of Handwritten Notes

By taking notes by hand, you do not run the risk of your technology failing. There’s no battery to sap to zero. With a notebook, you can stay focused on the task at hand. The reduced potential for distraction means you can hear more of the lecture and fully absorb the key points of what you are there to learn.

In fact, research from Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles show that the mere presence of a visible screen can affect comprehension. Students who participated in the study scored 17 percent lower on comprehension than those who had no distracting view.

Don’t worry ﹘ that tempting email notification can wait until class is over.

Different Note Taking Methods

By putting pen to paper, you can take advantage of one ﹘ or several ﹘ note taking strategies that enhance your learning. Depending on the course objectives, one or multiple methods may help you optimize the time you spend in class and in preparation for writing papers and sitting for tests.

Check out when to best apply these different note taking strategies:

Cornell Method

The Cornell Method gives you in-depth understanding of your subject and the necessary habits to study your notes. Divide your page into three, with a narrow column on the left and sufficient space on the bottom. Write notes in the middle.

Within 24 hours of class, note key terms, phrases, dates, and people in the left-hand column and write a summary of everything in the bottom.

Outline Method

These are for the organized who like the “numbering” function in word processing programs. The Outline Method mirrors this layout, with numbered points and sub-points in a systematic format.

Charting Method


The Charting Method takes prep time, but makes for quick note-taking. Before class, divide the page into columns, such as “date, person, event,” and fill it in with the day’s notes as the lecture proceeds.

Mind Map Method

For the visual learners, this method should mimic how the brain works. Draw a central concept in the middle of the page and connect related ideas in a picture format. Think of infographics you see in many online articles ﹘ the Mind Map Method is the same concept.

Sentence Method

In this method, you write down the lecture verbatim. You might have to be fast with your pen, but it avoids the potential of losing any vital bits of information. Remember, however, that in some disciplines, your analysis is more important than rote knowledge.

Things to Keep in Mind

The kind of notes you take depend on how the instructor will evaluate your performance. Sure, everyone is in this for the love of learning, however, your grade is one thing you will take with you when the course is over. Focus on facts if knowing those specific details are part of your assessment.

However, if you are asked to engage in a critical analysis, write down only the core facts to anchor your notes and jot down thoughts about how the course’s ideas connect to each other. Regardless of how you choose to engage with the material, try coming up with an abbreviation system that helps you save time while scribbling out your thoughts and those of the professor.

The great thing about class notes is that they are for your benefit. No professor will ever look at them or grade you on how well they are executed. So work with different styles and find the way that works best for you and how you learn.