Effective Note Taking Skills in Lectures

This post will tell you a bit more about studying for an academic degree in college. Your GED diploma qualifies you for a great college education but there are things you need to be aware of. Also, if you plan to take an online course, the following will be important to read through to avoid disappointment.

In school, the teachers often just taught from the book. Students would jot down a few words and study the book and they would be fine. Students who take the same approach to note taking in college will find themselves in a world of trouble.

The material in the books is significantly harder to understand and often, the lecture is necessary to make sense of the material. You cannot pass classes if you rely solely on the books for studying; you need to combine your lecture notes with the written material.

Frantically scribbling down notes only to find out that you cannot understand them when it is time to study, will sideline your college progress, which is why effective note taking skills are so important.  The good news is that it is easy to learn how to hone your note-taking skills.  It takes more than just writing down all that you can and then hoping that it makes sense later.  You need to find a way for you to take notes that works for you.

Here is your guide to effective note taking for classroom lectures:

Before the Lecture

Before sitting down for the lecture, you should already have read the material. Taking notes when you have no idea the concepts and ideas behind them is simply put, a bad idea.  Remember, lectures go hand in hand with the book so you should have already done the reading; otherwise the lecture will not make sense and setting up a good study plan will get you through your exams.

You should do the reading ahead of time because if there is anything that you do not understand, make a note of it and if it is not covered during the lecture then you can ask. If you do not read your material, how will you know what you need extra clarification on? In addition, you should read any extra course material, such as handouts or view videos, etc.

If you want to take better notes, sit in the front of the class or when you follow an online course, pay attention to every single detail. Not only does sitting up front help you from being distracted, but also it allows you to both see and hear the professor better. Get to class early so you can get everything set up before the lecture begins, not frantically trying to set up as class begins.

When it comes to how you are going to take notes, you have two options – write them by hand or use a laptop. If you have bad writing and a teacher who talks fast, consider using a laptop to takes notes on. If the class is slower paced, such as a math class, you can usually write your notes by hand. No matter how you choose to write your notes, you might want to consider using a voice recorder to record the lecture so you can go over later and fill in your notes if you missed anything.

Using a Dictaphone is an option too, but you’ll still need to take notes as well as download the recording on your computer. If you do this, you’ll need to set up a consistent naming convention so you can easily find the lecture recording you’re looking for quickly.

Taking Notes

When you are taking notes, try to organize them as you and the easiest way to do that is by using a simple outline format. The advantages of using an outline format are that you can easily see how things relate to each other. It is easy to jot down notes in this format and if you need to expand on an idea, you can take as many lines as you need. Keep in mind though that your main priority is to get the notes written down, not organizing them.  Do not spend a lot of time organizing your notes, you will actually go through and do that later.

You do not need to try to write everything down! Trying to cram too much into your notes is a downfall of many students. You should be making notes of the important things only, not every single word.  Make note of anything your teacher says that clarifies the content from the reading material.  If your teacher is just going over the content but adding nothing new, you can take a better outline.

Instead of writing down every word, focus on the main ideas that get the idea across. Use shorthand, but always use the same abbreviations for every class or else you will be scratching your head later on wondering what that abbreviation means. For older students that go back to college to enhance their skills or job advancement options, this may be hard at first, but in the end, it will definitely pay off!

If you want to use acronyms or shorted most used phrases, then write down the full phrase and then the shorthand next to it, and then use just the shorthand for it for the rest of the notes but the first time you use that abbreviation, you need to write it down. If your instructor is referencing page numbers to your text that the lecture refers too, write them down to help link your notes and the text.

Listen for clues that what your teacher is about to say is relevant and should be written down in your notes. In your book, important text is usually in bold, but when listening to a lecture, the clues that you should write something down are more subtle.  Listen for any of the following:

  • This is important because
  • There are X reasons why this is…
    • First reason, second reason
    • Because of this
    • Due to the impact of

    This echoes some of the phrases you’ll see in our article on exam paper keywords.

    If you are a visual learner, feel free to make small sketches and diagrams to help establish relationships between the data that you are writing down. If your instructor draws a diagram or a chart, you should always copy those down in your notes because those are things that are not typically in the book. Later, when taking a test, these strategies will prove invaluable. After the lecture, if you have any questions that are unanswered from your reading, as for clarification and then write it down.

    Post Lecture

    Another big mistake that students make is that they think that once they have taken the notes, that is it. They stuff the notes into their bag, or save their file on the laptop and forget about it until test time. Your memory will be freshest right after the class. If you have the time, sit down and go over your notes right then, to make sure that you did not forget anything. Sometimes you remember something that was said that you did not get in your notes. Now is a good time to make sure.

    If you recorded your lecture, later that day, go through and listen to it, and add to your notes as needed. You may also apply this to write a good GED essay when you prepare to go to college. Once you have done that, you can now organize your notes better. Redo them into a neater format, taking more care to do the outline properly.

    Taking efficient notes can be a lot of work, but if you plan on completing college and getting a degree, it is necessary. The more you start doing this, the easier it becomes and soon, taking good notes will be second nature.