If there’s one thing all university students can likely agree on, it’s that it can be difficult to keep up with all your classes and make sure you’re taking good notes. Note-taking is a skill professors assume all students have going into university, but not everyone knows the best way to take notes that actually help them learn! Yes, it can be easy to blame the prof or the people sitting behind you for your terrible notes, but it’s up to you to make the most out of your education! An easy way to start is to attend class and take good notes.
Note-taking is an important skill to carry with you throughout university and beyond. Even if you already go to class and take notes, there’s always a way to up your game and make the most of your classes! If you work hard now, your future self will be thanking you during finals.
Review your notes from last class to get yourself in the mindset of the lecture. I know I’m guilty of using those precious moments before class to catch up with friends or scroll through Instagram.
- Actually going to class and staying engaged is the most important thing for good notes. Profs will emphasize important concepts of the lecture (and maybe hint at what will be on the exam!). Plus, lectures are full of in-depth examples or anecdotes which are key to understanding difficult material.
- Remember: note-taking is a reflection of how YOU think. Don’t rely on your classmate’s notes because they may not mean a thing to you.
- Be an active listener! This means limiting potential distractions, silencing your phone, and focusing on the lecture. If you need coffee or snacks to stay awake, do it! To stay awake and interested, it’s helpful to engage with the material and make it interesting for you.
- Only write down what’s relevant—there’s no need to copy word for word from the slide or your prof.
- Use abbreviations. You can make your own shortcuts to save time.
Ways to take notes
- Cornell Note-Taking System: This separates out definitions/important concepts from their definitions/explanations. Each page also ends with a summary section, which helps reiterate material. Check out this video explaining how to use this method.
- T-Method: This system is especially helpful for science students! Concepts and information goes on the left and questions, ideas, and opinions go on the right.
Remember: If you’re having trouble following a lecture there’s no harm talking to your professor about it. Approach them after class or during office hours and explain your problem. Maybe they can add their slides on BrightSpace or slow down or speak up. It never hurts to ask!
After the Lecture
- Try to go over your notes within 24 hours! I know this sounds dreadful, but it really does help with consolidating material. Plus, having a solid grasp on the lectures will help when it’s time to study for exams.
- Also, make a study group and discuss the class material. Talking through concepts with others is a great way to understand it. If you’re able to teach your classmates the material, that’s a great indication you know your stuff.
If you’re on one of the Halifax campuses, Studying for Success has regular workshops that cover topics from ‘Strategies for Taking Multiple Choice Exams’ to ‘Presentation & Speaking Skills.’ The next couple “Note-taking & Listening Techniques” workshops are on Monday, Sept. 18 (6–7pm) and Monday, Sept. 25 (5–6pm) in McCain 1170. Some profs even offer extra credit for attending these self-improvement classes, and they’re free! Visit dal.ca/sfs to learn more.
If you’re on the Agricultural Campus, the Student Success coordinator offers regular study skills workshops throughout the year—including ones on taking notes!
Delainey’s notes are so good, the next generation will be using the Wescott Note-Taking System.