Effective Note Taking Before Class



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Effective Note Taking

Before Class

  1. Read material ahead of time—it makes taking good notes much easier.

  2. Look through syllabus; anticipate what class lecture will cover.


During Class

  1. Avoid writing in complete sentences. Jot down only main clauses.

  2. Do not copy lecture verbatim. Instead, focus on main points/concepts.

  3. Avoid taking notes in paragraph form. Instead, make sure each point is easily identifiable.

  4. Write any questions you have during lectures.

  5. Pay attention to the lecturer’s intonation and pauses. Often such devises are used to emphasize certain points.

  6. Make sure to copy what the instructor writes on the board.

  7. Have an internal conversation with the lecturer; ask questions. This will help you stay engaged in the lecture.


After Class

  1. Take 10 minutes after class and before the next class session to review notes. You may choose to read, highlight, retype, rewrite, or underline. You may also consider reorganizing them.

  2. Recopy your notes onto a chalkboard or dry erase board, especially rewriting charts or diagrams.

  3. Write questions in the margin of your notes so that you can quiz yourself later.

  4. Read over your notes while walking or exercising.

  5. Role-play. Pretend you are the professor explaining material to students. Read and explain your notes and class concepts aloud.

  6. Compare notes with a classmate. This will help solidify important concepts and fill in any gaps in your own notes.


When Studying for a Test

  1. Use the questions you’ve written in your note margins to quiz yourself on the content of your notes.


Most of all, make sure that you are doing what works best for you. Try different approaches and go with those that help you retain information. Your note-taking style may also depend upon the style of your instructor or the content being covered, so you may adjust your method for each class.

What should I do before class in order to effectively take notes?

What should my notes look like?
What things should I write down?
What can I do to stay engaged?

What should I do with my notes after class?
What different ways can I review my notes?
How can I use my notes to study with classmates?

How can I use my notes to study for a test?
What factors affect how I take notes for a class?

Strategies for effective note taking—what to do before, during, and after class. How to use notes to study for a test. Highlights the importance of developing note-taking style that works best for you. Might need to adjust note-taking style to accommodate instructor’s teaching style or class format.

This handout provided as a service of Academic Assistance Center ~ Library 124 ~ (253) 535-7518

www.plu.edu/~aast * learningctr@plu.edu



Based on the Cornell Note-taking System. For more information:

Pauk, Walter. How to Study in College. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. 236-241.


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