How to Take College Notes Effectively

How to Take College Notes Effectively

Academic success depends on your grades, which depend on your knowledge, which depends on your ability to learn, which depends on how you listen and take notes. The latter is basically the first we have to study at school, however even at college it appears that not everyone is aware of how to do it correctly. And teachers are not to be blamed for your messy notebook, everything lays in organization. This word is not as toothy as it seems to be, let’s explore how it can come in handy.

Where to make notes

We wouldn’t recommend to keep one and only notebook for all your subjects. It could have ‘separators’ or whatever you call them to divide notebook into subject sections, but is this thick pack of paper useful when you have only one or two of those classes a day? Have beautiful thin notebooks for each thing instead and it will remind you that there’s really not much to learn.

How to make notes

Now let’s come closer. The first and the easiest rule: if something’s on the board, you have to put it down. You can obviously take a picture of a board on your phone but, when you write, you remember more, same is concerning making notes with laptops. Scientists have discovered that cursive is an important tool of cognitive development. While writing our brain integrates sensation, movement control and thinking. Thus, it is helpful for those who wants to improve visual memory. Moreover, hand writing is useful while composing. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported in her investigation that pupils wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Besides, don’t ignore the quality of writing, develop it in different ways. Industrial Revolution has been doing a lot to improve humanity, but with time we notice that this enhanced progress significantly levels down handmade and practical skills of people. Soon every traditional method of manufacturing and handwriting will find its digital analogue and we are going to lose the ability to write due to lack of its necessity. Your written letters can become collector’s finding one day, so don’t scribble!

Old school of handwriting

If you have decided to write everything down finally, you should be ready to apply few tips for good notes writing.


  • Utensils: Always be prepared, keep note-writing materials at hand. 
  • Elaborate: No matter whether your teachers speak fast or slow, lecturers are not going to repeat themselves. So focus on the key-words and take quick notes in class including the main points. Don’t be afraid to spend some time at home expanding them.
  • Good-looking and easy to use: 
    – Put the title of the topic and date on every page so that you can turn to it later without hectic seeking.
    – Skip the lines between subtopics.
    – Use bullet points to write down each issue.
    – Highlight things that are going to be on the test or those that are difficult to memorize. Get yourself more colorful highlighters and pens to make your notes friendly and memorable.
    – Use one page per each topic, don’t mix them together even if you have extra space.
    – Use your margins to make reminders and stickers to return to any page quickly.
  • Mistakeless: If you’ve done a mistake, draw one clean line across, it’ll keep your notes clean.

New Age digital methods

Now, if you’ve already decided to quit writing for good, do take notes at least with laptop or tablet, it’s totally fine to use them if your teacher allows. In our digital era notebooks can be no longer applicable any day. With computers advice is the same: put everything into a structure, create special folders and files for each subject and category. However, process can be automatized so much with a help of several apps that note-taking itself can turn into fun!

  • Evernote is available for for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows. It synchronizes your notes from every device involving photos, location and voice recording (of lectures for example). 
  • Simplenote takes simple notes, captures ideas, tasks, plans, assignments and has its sync with iPhone and Android as well.
  • Fetchnotes is a new one note maker and editor which allows to attach documents and files from different web apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Instagram, Google Drive, etc.


Apart from those technological advancements there’s another present day wonder – a stylus. A pen substitution connected to your gadget (laptop, tablet, etc.) allows to do ‘digital handwriting’ sending it directly where you want. Scientists reckon that the stylish device will motivate students to train their hands and thus, brains. Now you know that you have several ways of note taking, choose one of them and be productive in your homework and at classes.

Filed under Writing.
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