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How to Take Notes In College: 6 Top Methods and Tips

How to Take Notes In College: 6 Top Methods and Tips

Starting college is a kind of overwhelming and leveling-up experience in the lives of every student. As new college students, you are excited to start this new chapter, and you are nervous about the upcoming burden at the same time, right? Now you have to prepare and gear up to ace your class and ensure your success.

Do you know about the most effective tool that will help you ace your class? Let us tell you: your lecture Notes! Yes, we know that you have been taking notes ever since high school, but now, you will need to upgrade your game.

What? Are you scared? There is no need to! Because as always, we are here to the rescue! In this awesome guide, we are going to share 6 effective notes taking methods, along with a few additional tips so that you nail your classes! Also, this guide is not only limited to college students; it is helpful for anyone who is learning how to take notes!

But before diving into the methods and tips, let us briefly go through the importance of taking notes! Keep Reading!

Why you should Take Notes?

As we have briefly mentioned above, taking notes of lectures is one of the most important parts of your college life. It can help you actively listen to what your teacher or tutor is saying, helps you have a better understanding of the main ideas and concepts, and improve your comprehension skills.

Moreover, a note-taking system helps you revise your lectures more conveniently, and helps you identify the main concepts you need to focus on. In short, note-taking methods can help college students in numerous ways, including ensuring their academic success.

6 Best Note-Taking Methods

As promised, here is a detailed description of some of the best and most popular note-taking methods for students to study smarter! Just pick any one of these below-mentioned note-taking styles that suit best your needs. Read on to see how each method works!

1. The Outline Method

The outline method is an easy, simple, and most common note-taking method people use these days. This method works by organizing all your notes and key points in a structured form by using bullet points.

What you need to do is put the title on the top of the page, start writing the main topics in bullet points at the left side of the page, and then add subtopics, supporting facts, and sub-points under that bullet.

This note-taking method is time-saving and is best if you want a concise form of notes. Here are a few additional pros and cons of the Outline method:


  • Time-Saving than other methods.
  • Doesn’t require editing or reviewing notes.
  • Structure and organize your notes section.


  • This method does not work for complex subjects like Math and Chemistry.

2. The Cornell Method

The Cornell note-taking method is the best strategy if you plan on reviewing your notes after lectures. Also, it has a unique and detailed layout that helps you note down all the main ideas and key concepts.

In the Cornell method, you divide your page into different sections, but mainly 3 to 4. You can use the top row to write the title and add two columns underneath for the content. However, make sure that the right column is broader than the left one.

In the left column, you can write questions and comments, and in the right one, you can write the summaries and main points. Then after the lecture, you can review your notes in detail. Here are the pros and cons of the Cornell method:


  • A quick way to take notes.
  • Cornell notes provide a detailed summary of the lecture.


  • You will need to prepare pages for the lectures.

3. The Boxing Method

The boxing method is one of the most popular and widely used note-taking methods. This method works by dividing your lecture into different sections so that you can cut down on the reviewing time. All you need to do is make different boxes, and add all the related notes in each box.

This method works more efficiently if you use digital notes applications like GoodNotes, etc. Hence, if you have a class where several topics are being discussed at one time, then the Boxing Method is your best option! Here are its pros and cons:


  • Helps you organize your notes according to the relevant topics.
  • Perfect for people who prefer taking digital notes.


  • Not suitable if you prefer taking notes by hand.
  • This note-taking method is not for every lecture type.

4. Charting Method

As the name implies, the charting method involves a spreadsheet format; charts, tables, and lots of columns & rows to adjust heavy information inside. The information includes long definitions and detailed statistics.

The charting method is also a digital note-taking method and allows you to jot down all the information in a perfectly structured form. However, we only recommend using this method if you have a lot of information to note down, or you are doing an intensive study session. Here are its pros and cons:


  • A good note-taking method for perfectly structured information.
  • Helps in jotting down a lot of information.
  • Suitable for people who prefer digital notes.


  • Time Consuming

5. The Mapping Method

The mapping method, as the name implies, helps you create a map of your lecture and notes with the help of making branches and sub-branches. This note-taking method also allows you to determine the connection and relationship between the main points.

What you need to do is write the main topic or title at the top, and then keep going downwards while dividing that main topic into subtopics with the help of arrows, sub-headings, and bullet points. If you want a note-taking method that allows you to organize heavy content, then this is the right option for you!


  • Uses appealing visual elements.
  • Helps organize heavy information in concise form.


  • Requires a lot of focus and attention.

6. The Sentence Method

Ending our list of methods with this old-school note-taking method that probably everyone has used once in their lives! The sentence method allows the students to write the notes in their own words without any structure.

It involves no charts, rows, or structure; Just start taking notes in the form of sentences. However, make sure you keep numbering the sentences and the overall notes makes sense. Also, this note-taking method is known to cover a large amount of information. Here are its pros and cons:


  • A good method for heavy and detailed lectures.
  • Taking notes in your own words.


  • Not suitable for statistic lectures.

Note-Taking Tips for Students

Now that we have gone through the 6 top note-taking methods, it is time to go through some expert tips for taking good notes. Yes… just knowing about the methods is not enough, you need to take care of a lot of extra things. Again, don’t worry. We have got you covered here too. Here are our best note-taking tips for students:

Tip # 1 – Experiment with Different Styles

The first and foremost tip you need to know is to never stick with one note-taking method. Instead, switch between note-taking styles according to the requirements of the particular lecture or class.

Sometimes one method is perfect for a lecture but might not work great for the other one. Therefore, the note taker needs to be mindful, and think thoroughly and carefully before opting for a note-taking method.

Tip # 2 – Handwrite your Notes before Typing

Next, try to opt for handwritten notes as much as you can. Taking notes by hand is always more effective than laptop note-taking. Why? Because handwritten notes allow you to memorize and remember the lecture. However, we are not saying that students stick to handwritten notes forever.

Because obviously, handwritten notes are not always easy to search and access. Therefore, students can type those lecture notes later to get a digital version of them. But during the lecture, always take notes by hand! In simple words, write first, type later!

Tip # 3 – Be on Time

If you want to take good notes of the lecture, you have to be on time. And by the time we don’t mean just on time. In fact, be there 10 or 15 minutes early to prepare and gear up yourself for the lecture.

Tip # 4 – Always Sit at the Front Row

Most of the students these days don’t like sitting in the front row. Why? Because obviously, they are noticeable at the front, and they will have to be attentive all the time. But if your goal is writing and taking good notes, you will always have to sit at the front.
Sitting at the front during class helps the students to focus more on the lecture. Also, it will allow the students to listen to the teacher or tutor more carefully.

Tip # 5 – Neatness

If you are going to write handwritten notes, then please make sure that your handwriting is neat and understandable. One of the most common mistakes students make is writing in a hurry, and not understanding their own handwriting later.

Now obviously, this might be a problem for some students because writing neatly and quickly is a rare combination. So, if you are someone who can’t write quickly and neatly both at the same time, you will have to opt for other methods.

Tip # 6 – Avoid Distraction

This is the most important rule in the guide to good note-taking: minimize distractions as much as you can! If you are sitting with a talkative person, change your seat. If you have a mobile phone, iPad, or any other device, turn it off before the lecture starts.

Nowadays, we get distracted by something as small as a social media distraction. Therefore, it is suggested to try to avoid all sorts of distractions you might face beforehand. Taking good notes will require some sacrifice after all.

Tip # 7 – Use Visual Illustrations

We always associate the word notes with texts, right? Well, that is not the case every time. Notes are just not a text-based affair, you can add much more to it. From diagrams to sketches to graphs to illustrations, you can add a lot of visual elements to make the notes more interesting.

All you need to do is just use a little bit of your creativity and imagination, and eventually, note-taking and then reviewing them later would become a fun and interesting task for you.

Tip # 8 – Use Note-taking Applications

If you are writing your notes digitally and not by hand, then we would suggest you always use a professional note-taking application. Just typing on the notepad of your mobile phone won’t work. Here are some best note-taking apps/tools you can use:

  • Notion
  • Evernote
  • Roam Research
  • Apple Notes
  • OneNote
  • Milanote

Tip # 9 – Abbreviations

Always try to use abbreviations instead of the full form of everything. This way, you will be able to save time and write more efficiently. For example, you can write DOB instead of Date of Birth, KM instead of a kilometer, Dept instead of the department, and Geo instead of Geography.

In simple words, if you find a term that is too long, make up an abbreviation for it in your mind and then write. However, make sure you remember the abbreviation later.

Tip # 10 – Review the Notes

Yeah, we know this point is quite obvious, but we still felt the need to add this to our list of tips. Always review your notes, and by the review, we don’t mean only before exams. Instead, review them from time to time so that you don’t forget the key points and main concepts.

Final Words

Taking good notes during a lecture is basically a skill, and you need to nail this skill if you want to nail your class. We have done our part to help you prepare for the note-taking, now it is your turn. Pay attention, work hard, and make us proud!

Also, if you still think you need to learn more about note-taking, feel free to contact us and ask for a professional tutor to help you.

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With over 3 years of experience in teaching, Chloe is very deeply connected with the topics that talk about the educational and general aspects of a student's life. Her writing has been very helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their academics and personal well-being. I’m also open to any suggestions that you might have! Please reach out to me at chloedaniel402 [at]