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Top 15 Best Way to Take Notes in College | 2022 Ultimate Guide

We’re sorry to break it to you, but showing up to your lectures is only half the fight; paying attention and mastering your best way to take notes in college are critical to achieving the degree grade you want.

It might tempt you to pat yourself on the back simply for getting out of bed and to class, but the fact is that if you’re not making the most of your lecture time, you might as well have stayed in bed.

If you spend the entire lecture choosing what to eat for supper, your attendance is meaningless. While paying attention is important for achieving a first, collecting lecture notes you may refer to while writing essays and rewriting is much more important.

In this article, we have put together a list of the 15 best ways to take notes in college. So, let’s get straight to it.

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What are Some Note-taking Strategies for College Students?

Below are six specific note-taking strategies that will help with the best way to take notes in college.

1. The outline method

The outline approach is one of the most natural and straightforward ways to take notes.

As the name implies, the outline approach converts notes into a hierarchy of information, allowing for a logical flow of text on the page while being highly structured. You may use the outline approach to take notes either by hand or digitally.

Here’s some advice on taking notes using the outline method:

  • On the far left of the page, label the key lecture themes.
  • Add subtopics beneath each subject, indented farther to the right.
  • Expand on each subtopic with additional facts, comments, or questions indented to the right.

When using the outline approach on paper, you must determine how much space you will use below each subtopic heading for all of your notes. With a digital platform, you may always add or remove space as needed.

With practice, you may become quite efficient at taking notes in this manner while remaining tidy and professional.

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2. The Cornell Method

Walter Pauk, a Cornell professor, created the Cornell Method for students. The following is how to take Cornell notes:

  • Make two equal vertical columns on your page.
  • Allow the lowest one-third to one-quarter of the page to be separated from the columns, resulting in an upside-down T on the page.
  • Use the left column to highlight keywords or ideas, and the right column for more detailed notes.
  • Fill in the blanks at the bottom of the page with a summary of the information.

Like the outline approach, Cornell note-taking encourages note-takers to keep clear, orderly, and concise notes. It’s a great way to get note-takers to reread their notes, evaluate what they’ve learned, and solidify their new information. While the Cornell Approach is best recognized as a handwritten method, you can also do it digitally. Cornell note-taking is also an effective tool for self-testing, which is a tried-and-true strategy for learning and remembering new knowledge.

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3. The boxing method

The boxing method of taking notes is designed for visually dominating learners. Boxed notes, like mind mapping, help students to understand how thoughts are linked and flow from one another.

Boxing notes can be taken by hand or digitally using tools such as a lasso tool, which allows you to effortlessly group objects together.

The boxing note-taking procedure is as follows:

  • Separate the page into two columns.
  • Include subject headings for each key concept, then extend with notes right beneath each topic.
  • Draw a box around the whole note section and heading when you’ve finished taking notes for each header.

The final page will seem like a series of different-sized boxes, each carrying a primary topic and associated annotations. You may then either mind map by linking thoughts with connecting arrows or leave the boxes separate.

By clustering themes, students may go further into each subtopic while still comprehending how concepts are linked.

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4. The charting method

One of the most successful approaches for fact- and data-heavy course topics are charting note-taking.

When the lecture topic is extremely organized and homogeneous, the charting approach is an effective way to keep up with it.

This strategy is useful for memorizing information and testing yourself with recall exercises since it is focused on facts and keywords. It is less appropriate for abstract notions and ideas.

To use the charting approach, do the following:

  • Determine the subjects that will be covered in the lecture.
  • Separate the page into columns, each with its relevant term.
  • Make appropriate notes for each applicable keyword.

If you have a ruler or another technique to split up your sheet cleanly, you can take charting notes by hand. Using a basic word processor or spreadsheet, you may also take charting notes digitally.

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5. The mapping method

Mapping is a popular approach to taking notes in both the academic and corporate realms.

When learning or covering complicated, abstract knowledge, mapping can assist remove the ambiguity associated with highly intricate topics.

While visual learners favor this strategy, it is excellent for anybody attempting to link large concepts and topics and understand how they flow from one another.

Here’s how to utilize the map note-taking technique:

  • At the top of the page, write the primary theme.
  • Make one branch for each subtopic that stems from the one before it.
  • Continue to divide the subtopics on the page downward and outward.
  • Add pertinent notes beneath each subtopic.

The result should be a web of information or a hierarchy of information comparable to a flow chart.

Mapping allows you to be creative by representing how concepts compare or relate using colors or symbols. Notes can be mapped by hand or digitally.

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6. The sentence method

The sentence note-taking approach is the most basic and least organized. When the lecture subject isn’t stated, the sentence technique might assist give your notes the structure the topic lacks.

The sentence technique is very beneficial in fast-paced lectures with a lot of substance. It works with both handwritten and digital notes.

Follow these steps to practice the sentence note-taking method:

  • Record material on lined paper, such as phrases, facts, or thoughts in sentences.
  • For each new point, go to the next line.
  • As you proceed through the lesson topic, number each new sentence.

Learners with nothing prepared for a lecture tend to spontaneously write notes in sentence form, making it an easy note-taking strategy for everyone.

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Top 15 Best Ways to Take Notes in College

Learn the best way to take notes in college by following the advice provided here. You may simplify and streamline the notetaking process to set yourself up for higher success with a little work upfront.

1. Take a seat at the front of the class.

Many students dislike sitting in the front of the class, although it is the greatest spot to remain focused.

You may feel vulnerable, or your instructor will notice if you aren’t paying attention. But if your objective is the best way to take notes in college, isn’t that a good thing?

Would you prefer to sit in the first row of the performance or on the balcony? Treat each class the same. Choose the front of the class for the most immersive experience.

2. Select the Best Strategy (Paper or Digital)

Taking good notes in college necessitates a plan. The two best ways to take notes in college are on paper with a pencil, pen, or digitally, and we’ll go through both tactics in further detail later.

But first, you must decide which system is best for you, your learning style, and the subjects you’re taking this semester.

Although most people can type quicker than they can write, certain class formats may need a more visual approach to note-taking. Using a laptop, drawing even basic sketches on the move may be difficult.

There is also evidence that people recall knowledge better when handwritten rather than typed it. If the aim is to remember what you’ve learned, isn’t that the case? — try taking notes by hand again.

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3. Keep your notes brief.

It’s tempting to remember everything the speaker says, but doing so is detrimental. If you’re a lightning-fast typist, you might record almost everything.

Should you, however? Do you wait for an exam with six pages of written notes from each lecture day?

It’s best to keep your notes brief and focused on what appears to be the most significant.

You also do not need to jot down anything that you already know. Concentrate on the new information. Make sure you remember it, and don’t worry about the rest.

4. Write Properly

Make sure you can read what you’re writing if you prefer to handwrite your notes. Write as clearly as possible so you don’t have to spend time later deciphering yourself.

This is one of the best ways to take notes in college. Of course, many people have difficulty doing this, whether owing to poor handwriting or a physical constraint or injury.

If you can’t write clearly enough to read your notes later when writing fast, you may need to switch to another note-taking approach.

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5. Organize Yourself

For studying, disorganized notes might be a nightmare. Set up a system before you begin, whether you’re writing by hand or typing into a laptop or tablet.

Microsoft OneNote is a fantastic program that most college students already have. If you’re taking notes by hand, try keeping notebooks for each class or a three-ring binder with tabs for each course.

You may further arrange your notes inside a course by unit or discipline. We can’t tell you which strategy is the best way to take notes in college for you, but we can tell you that having an organizational plan in place before you begin is vital.

6. Reduce Distractions

We live in an information-rich society, and we all like to believe that we can multitask like a pro. The only difficulty with this notion is that we can’t.

Multitasking is a myth, according to both psychology and neuroscience. When we try to multitask, all we do is a transition from one job to another fast.

Every time your brain does this, performance suffers as the brain recalibrates.

What does this entail for college students taking notes and studying for exams? Simple: Every glimpse at social media is a second (or 30) that you aren’t paying attention to.

The same is true for every email, chat message or simply sidelong glance at someone else in the room. Turn off alerts from all except the most important applications if you’re taking notes on a smartphone.

If you want to take decent notes, you can’t afford to be distracted.

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7. Create a System

Creating a system is one of the best way to take notes in college. Finding a decent one for notetaking can set you up for success since your brain wants routine.

Don’t, for example, wait until the lecture begins to write down your orienting information (date, class, topic, etc.). Set up your notetaking environment for the following week ahead of time, so that when you arrive at class, you’re ready to start taking notes as soon as the lecturer begins.

Of course, there is more to designing a system. We’ll go through those things in more detail later.

8. Make Use of Your Space

Nothing is more intimidating during test season than a notepad-filled wall-to-wall with small writing that all looks the same. It’s critical to manage space wisely, whether you’re handwritten or taking notes digitally.

Write the most important things first (or utilize built-in heading levels in OneNote, Word, or wherever you’re taking your digital notes). Allow for “rabbit trails” or noteworthy asides in the margins.

Allow room for a short graphic or diagram, if appropriate for your subject. You may also highlight crucial phrases to bring them to your notice.

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9. Make Use of Abbreviations

For good reason, abbreviations are ubiquitous which is why they are one of the best way to take notes in college. They save time and might even help with memory.

You don’t have to type everything out, whether you’re typing or writing by hand. Find a way to shorten the name of your course, for example. (The History of Civilization is already reduced to the History of Civ. But for your handwriting, why not shorten it to HCiv?)

The same is true for frequently used words, particularly those that are lengthy or technical. Once you’ve learned the phrase, look for an abbreviation that you’ll remember. Save your fingers and brain some time.

10. Concentrate on the Key Points

When it comes to the best way to take notes in college, you’ll never be able to record everything—at least not properly.

It is considered preferable to concentrate on the essential aspects. Many lecturers use an outline, and their primary themes will likely follow one even if they don’t.

Take notes on the lecture’s content, then outline the points. Not only will this help you avoid writing down everything, but it will also give your notes structure, which should improve the quality of both your learning and memory.

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11. Make Use of Visual Elements

Taking notes is often a text-based activity. However, with a little ingenuity and inspiration, you may add visual aspects to your notes.

Some parts of learning are considerably easier to draw down in the form of a diagram or picture than they are to write out verbatim. Consider displaying specific visual components rather than simply writing about them if you have the skills.

Taking images is another wonderful way to improve your notetaking. Some professors may be skeptical, therefore you may need to clarify your goals.

However, taking a short snapshot of a particularly text-heavy PowerPoint slide might save you a lot of pointless writing and allow you to concentrate on what you’re hearing instead.

You’ll be able to put these photographs right into your notes if you’re using a notetaking program. But be sure to do it on the same day so you don’t have to scramble afterward to figure out which photo matches which area.

12. Highlight Important Points

When thinking of the best way to take notes in college, you have to consider highlighting those important points that a lecturer might hint at at the end of his class.

We propose using a special color to emphasize or highlight critical information like this. If you’re using yellow for crucial phrases, consider utilizing blue for these key points.

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13. Write by hand first, then type afterward

Research shows that scribbling your notes improves memory and recall. However, there are several drawbacks to handwritten notes. One of the most significant disadvantages is that they are not easily searchable.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to simply search all of your notes for the whole semester for a certain phrase when you have a huge exam? It sure sounds better than sifting through pages and pages of chicken scratch to find what’s significant.

Build some time into your nightly routine to convert your handwritten notes into structured, typed notes if you want the best of both worlds. Yes, this takes a bit longer. However, you benefit much from it: The original handwriting is valuable and retyping it is your first level of inspection.

During this process, you will automatically begin to organize and synthesize the information and have a searchable database at your disposal. Which is why this is one of the best way to take notes in college.

14. Think about Notetaking Apps

If you’re taking notes digitally, be sure you’re using a good tool. We’ve previously suggested Microsoft OneNote as a strong contender.

Many students swear by Evernote, particularly those who take notes on an iPad. Milanote may appeal to you more if you are a more visual person.

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15. Make a list of questions.

Another method to keep your mind active while taking notes is to jot down questions as they come to mind.

Some conventional professors may not take questions until the end of the lecture, and it might be difficult to recall that subject from five minutes ago that you needed clarification on.

Writing down questions as they arise is a terrific way to stay interested, and it also serves as a resource for following up with your lecturer in class or outside of class.

Following this piece of advice can help you study better and seem better in front of your lecturer. And it can’t harm, can it?

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most efficient way to take notes?

The outline approach is one of the most natural and straightforward ways to take notes. As the name implies, the outline approach converts notes into a hierarchy of information, allowing for a logical text flow on the page while being highly structured. You may use the outline approach to take notes either by hand or digitally.

What are the five note-taking techniques?

The Outlining Technique
The Mapping Technique
Cornell’s Method
The Charting Technique
The Sentence Approach

What are the four primary note-taking techniques?

Use one of the four basic note-taking methods: lists, outlines, idea maps, or the Cornell method.

In college, how do you keep track of your notes?

We can now organize all of our classes into a single binder, and I can simply flip through pages to get the material I need later. This is also extremely crucial for archival purposes. After the lesson, I may use the binder system to arrange my notes.

What are note-taking strategies?

Write phrases rather than whole sentences. Only write down the crucial words that you need to understand the concept. Words like “the” and “a” should be avoided since they provide no extra significance to the lecture material. Keep crucial technical or discipline-specific words in mind.

How can I take professional-looking notes?

Choose a note-taking approach and stay with it. Using the same style over and over again makes it easy to discover information in your notes. This implies your notes will be more useful for studying. Write the date and topic at the top of the page at the start of class.


To keep your note-taking at its best try implementing these Top 15 Best Way to Take Notes in College. It is sure to produce results you would be proud of.

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