Top 10 Tips for Better Note Taking to Help You Ace Your Exams (and will help you in College!)

Everyone may think taking notes is just dotting down everything the teacher is saying and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good grade. The truth is there are tips and tricks to get the most of your note taking that will set up you up for success in your exams and will prepare you for college at the same time.


Here are our top 10 tips for better note taking:


1.     Be orderly. Invest in a 3-ring binder with pocket dividers. This way you can add and organize handouts or other material in the pockets.  Pockets also ensure your handouts will be kept safe. Binders are better than spiral notebooks for note taking as you cannot reshuffle or add documents securely in regular notebooks.


2.     Organization is key! Keep notes from each class separate! This also helps you from losing any important notes or loose papers.


3.     First thing’s first: Add the date! It’s important to always date your notes to avoid mishandling or losing them. It also makes studying a lot easier when you know what day a particular lesson was on.

Bonus tip: Always identify your lecture notes by writing the name of the lesson or chapter, etc. This way you can breeze back through your notes and better clarify what you should be studying.


4.     Develop a trusty color system. Highlighters are your best friends when it comes to note taking. Highlight any words you may not understand, key important facts, or everything your teacher exclaims, “This WILL be on the test!” It’s really important to develop a consistent color system and stick to it. For example, highlight all important information in yellow, words you do not understand in orange, or those super important facts that are guaranteed to be on the test in pink! Using different color sticky notes, page markers and other colorful methods are another great way to indicate level of importance in your notes.


5.     Paraphrasing will take you far. You can lose a lot of time copying overhead lecture slides in class word-for-word. It’s best to paraphrase long slides as this will save you a lot of time! In college your professor will move pretty quickly through these and may not always go back to review something. Start getting preparing yourself for this by teaching yourself how to paraphrase and using your best judgment when it comes down to jotting important information. Which brings us to:


6.     Improve your listening skills. If you follow tip #5, you have more time to actively listen to your instructor and write important facts not written on the slides. Doing this will you also help you improve your focusing skills.


7.     Strategically leave space. Leave some blank areas in notes if you are missing information from the class lecture. You can always ask a classmate for their notes or the instructor to clarify after class.


8.     Find what works best for you and stick to it. Develop your own system of enumerating, bullet listing style, and indenting and stick with it! It will help you take notes more quickly and reading it will be a breeze later. Remember to use symbols such as asterisks for emphasis!


9.     Use the buddy system. Establish a study buddy with a fellow classmate in case you ever miss class. Use your best judgment, as some students are better at note taking than others.


10.  Disconnect yourself. The truth is, it is very difficult to multitask. By putting your phone away and not worrying about other classes or people around you, will ensure you are set up for successful note taking. Take this moment to focus on this class and this lecture. Everything else can wait until after class is over.



Great note taking is all about repetition. With lots of practice and by being consistent, your note taking abilities will improve in the years to come. Most importantly find your own style and have fun! What are some note taking tips that have really helped you? Share with us!