Note-taking is an important part of every student’s academic life. Learning how to take good, effective and efficient notes will allow you to stay on top of your schoolwork, get organized, and do well on your exams.
Effective note-taking involves four steps:
It's important that you walk into every lecture ready to learn. This means that you are reading assigned content and reviewing your last lecture’s notes. Use this time to check for keywords/concepts and write down any questions you have or areas you do not understand. This preparation is a form of frontloading – you are getting your brain ready to intake information and connect new ideas to existing one. This allows you to focus on learning concepts rather than getting stuck on vocabulary.
Use a System
Having a good note-taking system allows you to identify important information, organize that information in a way that makes sense and keep track of things you understand and things that need clarification. They also help to prepare you for exams by forming a type of study guide that can be used later for review.
There are several different types of note-taking systems you can use. Pick one that is easy for you to understand and organize. Some examples of note-taking methods include: outline method, mind mapping and the Cornell system.
The only way to take effective notes in class is to be an active listener and learner. Pay attention to:
- What your instructor is emphasizing
- How the content is organized
- Listen for verbal cues like "You need to know", "First of all" or words that are repeated
- Watch for visual cues: words written on the board, highlighted or in bright colours.
Record these cues in your lecture notes and ask questions! (In class, by email, or during office hours)
Reviewing your notes is an important step in making sure you solidify the information you have just learned to memory. Wait 15-20 minutes after your class has finished, then go back to you notes. Read over/review your notes and mark down any questions you have. Add in information you missed and write down connections/examples to your other classes or life. Use highlighters and coloured pens to help keep you organized.
3 Colour Method of Highlighting:
Infographic text (for screen readers):
3 Colour Method of Highlighting: Use highlighters and coloured pens to keep you organized. For example, blue for definition words, green for names and dates, red for important information.
Resources & Apps
- Effective Note-Taking
- Cornell Note-Taking System
- Note-Taking (York University)
- Video:Taking Notes: Crash Course Study Skills #1
- Video: How to Use Cornell Notes
Apps for Note-Taking
Reading and writing resources
- Connecting Reading to the Course (York University)
- Identifying a Topic (York University)
- Personal Response (York University)
Resources on Campus