2-6 Note Taking Method
  • Date and title every lecture.
  • Number each page of notes from the lecture, e.g. 1/5, 2/5, etc.
  • Create a 2" left margin. .
  • Record notes in the large section created by the 6"; margin.
  • Leave the back side of each page empty. Use this space to take notes from the textbook.
  • Review your notes as soon after class as possible for the best retention of the material.

Reduce. Use the 2" margin to reduce notes into key concepts, terms, and possible test questions to be used for review later.

Recite. Cover your notes and quiz yourself on the notes written using the prompts in section. Say the answer out loud to more effectively encode information into memory.

Reflect. Write summaries of the lecture. Writing summaries helps you process information and prepare for essay questions. Create note cards, outlines, and charts for study. Making study aids is studying.

Review notes weekly. You will be amazed at how much you retain if you review your summaries weekly.


If you spend time reviewing your notes within a few hours of taking them, you will retain 50% of the material.
If you wait longer than 24 hours before reviewing your notes, you only retain 20% of the material.

The Dozen Do's and Don'ts of Note-taking


  • Do be familiar with the lecture topic before the lecture. (You take better notes when you have some understanding of new terminology and concepts before the lecture.)
  • Do paraphrase. Use your own words. (Leave out little words that Don't add meaning.)
  • Do abbreviate and use symbols. Create abbreviations for content words frequently used. Use symbols such as & (and), @ (at), b/c (because), > (greater than), = (equals), etc.
  • Do listen for terminology. Defining terminology usually comprises 60% of test questions.
  • Do write down details. Supporting details and examples prove the main point. Essay questions will require that you know the details.
  • Do write down examples. Examples serve as vivid triggers or reminders of the main point. Associating the point with the example will make it easier to memorize.
  • Do watch for nonverbal clues. If the lecturer pauses to look at his notes or to give you time to write, assume it is important information.
  • Do be alert to repetition. Repetition signals what the lecturer thinks is important.
  • Do use a 3 ring binder. Pages can be removed for review. Handouts can be added.
  • Do use only one side of the paper. You can spread out your papers for review.
  • Do leave blank space. Tightly crammed notes are hard to read. You can add study notes later in the blank space.
  • Do review and revise your notes within 24 hours. This is key to understanding and retaining information given in class.


  • Don't sit near friends. Why distract yourself?
  • Don't wait for something "important." Recording all you can keeps you involved.
  • Don't tune out the examples. These should be in your notes too.
  • Don't look for facts only. Concepts are more important than facts.
  • Don't give up if the lecturer is too fast. Some notes are better than none. Fill in later with someone else's notes.
  • Don't stop to ponder. You will miss information.
  • Don't over-indent. You'll run out of right-side space.
  • Don't doodle. It breaks concentration and eye contact.
  • Don't use a spiral notebook. You can't insert handouts.
  • Don't consider any example too obvious. Copy it! The reference will trigger your memory of the concept.
  • Don't use Roman numerals. They can be confusing.
  • Don't use too many abbreviations. You will be unable to decipher them later.

Listening Tips

The rate of speaking is 100 words per minute or less. The rate of thinking is 400 words per minute! The difference between the lecturer's words and your thinking is a source of power for understanding and recalling the lecture!

Keep Writing. Even if details Don't seem vital, write them anyway. Jot down every example. Constant writing keeps you actively involved in the lecture.

Mentally Summarize. Use the speak and think gap to mentally review and summarize the main ideas and supporting details during the lecture.

Anticipate the next point. Tune in to the speaker's outline and guess the next point. Listen to see if your prediction was correct.

Mentally question the information. How does it go along with the textbook? How does it relate to previous areas presented?