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!

Score with Scents

One of my favorite questions to ask when getting to know someone know is “How did your childhood smell like?”. Weird right? But the answers I receive are often powerful recollections of “Grandma’s Pie” or “Fresh Linens”. Responders can often go on and on about why their childhood smelled like what it did.


Our olfactory receptors are among the most sensitive in the human body and many of them may be able to trigger our memory if we use them effectively.  Thus, one strategy I recommend is to use specific scents while studying for an exam and then again on the day of the test. Much like aromatherapy is used to calm the mind or to spark synapsis, we can use them as our secret weapon to improve our performance during exams. Here are five scents I highly recommend:


  1. Cinnamon

    1. While often used to spice up a delicious dessert, cinnamon can also be used to boost brain function. This scent can be used to reduce nervous tension and memory loss. Results from studies found that people given cinnamon showed marked improvement in test scores, memory, and overall attention span.

  2. Citrus (Lemon/Orange/Grapefruit)

    1. These scents are often used for clarity and calm. They can be helpful when you are anxious or mentally exhausted. Citrus scents can be used to give you a fresh boost to your thoughts.

  3. Rosemary

    1. This scent is known for it’s ability to give a spark of energy. Rosemary is the ideal scent for improving memory and retention,. It also works great to combat physical exhaustion and headaches.

  4. Lavender

    1. We all know this scent for its relaxation properties, but did you know that it can also make you more optimistic? Let’s face it, we all need that extra boost of confidence before walking into a testing center.

  5. Spearmint

    1. Spearmint is known as an invigorating scent used to uplift one’s emotions. It’s ability to promote clear thoughts and increase concentration will also be a benefit while taking an exam.

The best way to implement this trick is to use essential oils. Try putting a few drops on your wrist and sniff when you need that extra push. You can try experimenting with individual scents or combine them for a truly unique studying experience. I hope this all make scents to you! (pun completely intended)

Preparing for College: Freshman Year Pt. 3

claremont tutor link educational institute

This post is part two of "Preparing for College: Freshman Year." Read part 1 and part 2 here.

This your opportunity to get involved. Find some extracurricular activities you feel like are fun yet productive towards your goals. A well formulated resume shows that you are making an impact on you high school community in some way outside of the classroom. Find something your can do after school and try to become part of their executive board or planning committee.

Yes, school clubs and organizations are a great to communicate this to college admissions officers, however, that’s not the only way. Look for opportunities in your community to help others or show your interest in a certain subject. Into animals? Volunteer at a local animal shelter! Want to become a teacher? Help out an after school program! These activities can also lead to great connections you can leverage in the future for recommendation letters.

Your guidance counselor is an important part of your high school career. This relationship can help in so many ways. They can help make the path towards success clearer and more defined for your specific institution. Maybe your school has a top Speech and Debate program. They would know best as they have often been working there for several years. 

Stay tuned for part 4 of "Preparing for College: Freshman Year"

Preparing for College: Freshman Year Pt. 2

This post is part two of "Preparing for College: Freshman Year." Read part 1 here. 

As we mentioned last time, your freshman year should be used to get comfortable with your new surroundings and set yourself up for success in the long run. Focus on the GPA and Resume aspect of our equation.

Three words: Get good grades. Set a goal early on in the year and evaluate often. Ideally, your goal would be to attain a 4.0 this year but everyone has their own standards of what is realistic. Work closely with your College Guidance counselors to help you choose classes that are challenging and appropriate for your skill level. Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Honors are options you can think about now, and engage in during sophomore year. Challenging courses are more impressive to college admissions officers. Period.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the "Preparing for College: Freshman Year" series.