Taking Notes in Class

When taking notes, do NOT try to write down every word. Remember that the average lecturer speaks approximately 125-140 words per minute, and the average note-taker writes at a rate of about 25 words per minute.

Five Important Reasons to Take Notes:

  1. It helps you to remember the information you read in the textbook.
  2. It helps you to concentrate in class.
  3. It helps you prepare for tests.
  4. Your notes are often a source of valuable clues for what information the instructor thinks most important (maybe—what will show up on the test).
  5. Your notes often contain information that cannot be found elsewhere (most instructors do not lecture right from your textbook).


To keep up with the note taking in class:

  1. Do not write small connecting words such as:
    is, are, was, were, a, an, the, would, this, of.
     2.  Do not write pronouns such as: 
       they, these, his, that, them
     3.  Use symbols to abbreviate, such as:

& (and), # (number), x (times), > (larger), < (smaller, fewer than), w/ (with), w/o (without)
w/in (within), —-> (leads to, produces, results in), <—- (comes from), and make up your own!

  4. Substitute numerals with symbols

1st (first), 2 (two), @ (at)

5. Abbreviate words

approp. (appropriate), leg. (legislature), med.(medicine)

 So what do you write:

  • Dates of events
  • Names of people
  • Theories- and a brief explanation of what the theory is
  • Definitions- if you cannot copy it word for word, mark it so you can look it up later
  • Examplesthat help you understand a concept/theory/definition
  • Just about anything a Professor writes on a board or what is written on a PowerPoint
  • Your own questions-  I recommend putting these in the margin so you can find them easily

You will develop your own method of taking notes, but these suggestions may be helpful:

1. Make your notes brief.

Never use a sentence where you can use a phrase.  Never use a phrase where you can use a word.

– Use abbreviations and symbols, but be consistent.

2. Put most notes in your own words except: Formulas, Definitions & Specific facts

3. Use outline form and/or a numbering system.  Indention helps you distinguish major from minor points.

4. If you miss a statement, write key words, skip a few spaces, and get the information later.

5. Don’t try to use every space on the page.  Leave room for coordinating your notes with the text after the lecture.   (You may want to list key terms in the margin or make a summary of the contents of the page.)

6. Date your notes and number the pages- it helps keep them organized!

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