Note taking tips for college students

You go to class. You listen to what your professor says. You write down the important stuff. End of story, right? Wrong. The goal of note taking is so much more than just writing down the main facts. Your notes from class should not only help you in retaining information, but they also should provide valuable study help that will mean you spend less time studying later.

Utilize the many note taking services available to you. (Credit:

Utilize the many note taking services available to you. (Credit:

I picked up some helpful tips and life hacks on how to take better notes that I am graciously going to pass on to you. You are welcome.

Life hacks for better note taking

So now that I’ve got you thinking about what you need to be writing down in class, how can you maximize your ability to collect that valuable intel? Believe it or not, there are strategies that you can employ to improve your note taking. One fun tip for retaining more information—use color in your note taking. Another great tip we recommend is using Questia. At Questia you can utilize the Writing Center, which offers time saving tools, a step-by-step writing guide, plus tips and guidance from teachers. Read on for some other helpful tips:

  • The Cornell Method—Divide your page into two columns. The right side will be larger. Use it for writing down the main points of the lecture. The smaller left-hand column will be where you write keywords and thoughts to remember for study help later.
  • Split Page—This method merges classroom lecture information with what you get from your textbook. Divide your note taking page into two equal columns. Classroom notes go on one side, lecture notes on the other.

Raw vs. processed information

Raw information? What’s that exactly? Glad you asked. It is the words and thoughts that come straight from your professor’s mouth. This is not what you want to be writing down. Instead your note taking should consist of processed information. The best study help you can give yourself is taking time in class to think through what has been said. This will go a long way towards not only retaining the information, but also shave time off your studying later because you will already have thought through the material and will only need to review it.

What about some life hacks and helpful tips to get all that valuable information processed in class? The number one thing you can do is ask questions—and not just any question that pops into your brain. Ask questions that investigate what links together the information you are being told. You will build better connections as a result, which will benefit your ability to process all that data. You are basically taking the Cornell Method of note taking mentioned above to the next level. Among the many helpful tips I wish I had known in college, this is at the top of the list.

Even more study help

Still need more life hacks to up the ante on your note taking? Maybe you need to try something a little less studious and a bit weirder. Here’s a list of the top five oddest ideas that might just be the helpful tips you need for retaining information:

  • Leave yourself a gummy bear trail as you read. When you get to that spot in the text, you get a snack.
  • Spray a strange scent. Spraying an unfamiliar scent when you are studying and again right before a test may help jog your memory.
  • Play instrumental music in the background. If you are listening to a recorded lecture or reading, the faint background noise could keep you focused.
  • Pretend you’re taking notes for someone else. If you think about explaining it to someone else, your note taking may be more thorough.
  • Take a break. Every 25 minutes, stop studying and do something you enjoy for five minutes.

For more help on note taking, visit Questia’s 9 Writing Steps.

Which of these helpful tips do you think will do the most to improve your note taking? Let us know in the comments.

2 replies
  1. Vit skala says:

    Thank you for this post! It is so important to explain advantage of good note taking and using notes in a wise way. BTW: Do you have an idea how many students use Cornell method? Excellent features in this method, but I’m afraid many students might see it as too complicated one.

  2. Bravo Oscar says:

    Hello Ginny. It’s very usefull for every student to note that somethings or everythinks in College/University and any were if it’s possible to use your note book and catch some ideas or chat. Well according to me it’s best for education guide in future


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