I’m about to give you note-taking advice that is so common-sense, you’ll wonder if it should even count as advice. That’s because there’s nothing I can tell you about note-taking — or very little at least — that you haven’t heard already.
I bet you’re going to ask for your money back. Wait. You’re not paying anything! Ha! So you get my advice anyway. Here goes:
The secret to note-taking is — here it comes now — to actually take notes. Summarize in your head what the prof is saying and write it down. Don’t try to take down every word, but write fast and keep up. Concentrate. Listen for main points and then write them down. And write from the moment class starts until the moment it ends.
Yes, there’s some cool note-taking systems out there, and yes, you should give them a try. (I’ll put links below.) Try some of these systems out and see what works for you.
But you know what doesn’t work? Keeping your pen on your desk. THAT’s what profs see a lot of the time, and it drives us crazy. Students just sitting there staring at us (or worse yet, staring at their phones), pens motionless on their desks. I want to scream, TAKE NOTES! WRITE THIS DOWN! (Sometimes I do!) Students who do this aren’t stupid; they just haven’t gotten in the habit of listening for important concepts once they enter the classroom door.
The point is to write, write, write. Try your best to summarize, but write, doggone it, write. And fast. Keep the pen up, the phone down, and pay attention. And take notes longhand — research shows this helps you retain information — rather than using a computer.
Here’s a couple of guides to note-taking that you might find useful. Check them out, but don’t get overwhelmed with detail. Try out a few different methods and see what works for you. Bottom line: Pen up, phone down.
P.S. Go to class.