Tips For Note Taking

If you go to class you’ll notice that there are many types of students, but around 80% of them will be taking notes.  Not everyone takes good notes and some people don’t even know how to take notes at all.  Everyone remembers things differently, but by taking notes you can ensure you’ll do better.  Some students will bring their laptops to every class and take notes that way, but there are a few pros and cons with this.


  • Efficient
  • You can organize your notes easily
  • Don’t have to read messy handwriting
  • You can sell your notes easily


  • Difficult to draw pictures
  • If your battery dies you’re in trouble
  • You could potentially get your notes stolen (if your laptop gets stolen) or lost
  • Terribly distracting thanks to facebook and email
  • If you drop it, leave it in your car during winter, spill on it etc, you can lose everything
All in all, it’s hard to beat the old fashioned paper and pen.  Here’s how it stacks up.


  • A notebook won’t get wrecked when it freezes or if you drop it
  • If you run out of paper there’s always someone in class that will be able to lend you a sheet
  • Some people find it easier to remember material if they write it down a few times


  • It sometimes can be disorganized
  • It can be hard to read your own writing
I tried using a laptop at first, thinking I was technologically savvy, but I ended up switching back to paper and pen because it was 100% more customizable.  I didn’t really have the best notes, but I was able to learn more from writing everything down.  During some of my electives I was in some 1st year classes where I witnessed all kinds of note taking styles.  Some students frantically wrote down everything the professor said, some followed the prof’s presentation on their computer.  I even seen one student record the class with a tape recorder.

Don’t Waste Your Time and Be Efficient

Some profs use power-point presentations, some use the chalkboard/whiteboard, some even use an overhead projector.  They all have different teaching methods and your note taking will have to adapt to whatever they do.  My preference is when professors post their notes online so you’re able to download them.  It probably hurts the attendance, but students that show up to class tend to be more engaged in the material and they can add their own notes to supplement the ones printed off.

Stay Organized When Taking Notes

Coming from me this is a bit ironic, but by staying organized you can save yourself big headaches when you need your course material quickly.  An easy way to keep things organized is to keep your subjects separate.  This seems obvious, but I ran into people who had trouble with this simple task, so I thought I would mention it.  I take nothing but a clipboard to class and some paper, so I’ll have 3 or 4 different subjects in there at once, at the end of the week I usually throw everything in their correct binders.  The most important thing to do is to put the date on every page of notes (both sides if necessary) in the top corner.  If you are a disorganized individual like myself, then this alone will make things easier on you.

Note Taking – The Refresher

My brother never studied much for exams and did very well.  I on the other hand took half decent notes and studied my ass off, although admittedly it was usually much too late, and got mediocre grades.  His secret was reviewing his notes at the end of the day for 15-20 minutes.  He remembered the material better and by the time the exam came around he remembered at least 75% of the material right off the beat!  I ended up trying this technique in my last year and my grades improved quite a bit! Take a look at my brothers follow up to this article, tips for taking notes

Everyone has their own unique note taking style.  What little quirks and tricks did you pick up?

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12 years ago

Great tips! Will put in my roundup this week! :)

12 years ago

Great tips!

Will put in my roundup this week!

I use a combination of both. I bring my laptop to class so I can follow the powerpoint slides and go back a few slides if I miss something. I also do handwritten notes because I retain the information better when I write it down.

12 years ago

Nice tips. My college years were way before laptops became affordable. I think I would have stuck with pen and paper though. A laptop is just too distracting for me. It would be difficult to not goof off on the internet.

12 years ago
Reply to  retirebyforty

I prefer the paper and pen just for the options of drawing arrows and all the neat shorthand stuff you can do that would take me forever to get into the habit of using a computer for.

12 years ago

For some reason though, if I take notes by computer, I don’t think I retain it as well..

I think there’s something to be said about picking up a pen and writing :)

maybe it connects with our brains more and the content gets absorbed more than typing it out…?

12 years ago

Yah, this is similar to how I feel as well.

The Wealthy Canadian
12 years ago

If I were to begin a Master’s program, I am absolutely certain that I would go the pen and paper route. Call me traditional, but it’s the way to go when you’re trying to listen to the prof and jot notes down quickly. With laptops, I find you have to use both hands at all times and you don’t get to slouch back and relax and listen as much. When it comes to writing assignments or papers however, I seldom start from pen and paper. I almost always begin in front of a screen and go from there. Once a… Read more »

12 years ago

Interesting, you would take your masters degree purely out of a desire to better yourself obviously since you don’t need the income bump? Would you take an MBA or a M.Ed?

12 years ago

Interesting… like RB40, in my college days this wasn’t even a consideration, as laptops weren’t around and even home PC’s were diesel-powered :-) I couldn’t agree more with the advantage of a pad and pen over a laptop. There’s no formatting or file saving to worry about with a pad or notebook. I used to doodle in the margins when the professor got off on a boring tangent or was answering a dumb question from another student, but kept half an ear on the conversation. This allowed me (most times) to snap back when it got interesting again. I imagine… Read more »

The Wealthy Canadian
12 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

Hi Teacher Man, I would probably go the MA route rather than an MBA or other programs. My undergrad is a Bachelor of Commerce, and after being in business and gaining management experience over the past 13 years, I think I would really enjoy the MA program. A few years ago, I took a Canadian history course at Athabasca University out of self-interest. After being away from university for so long, I thought it would be fun to refresh my brain in a new way so to speak instead of work-related professional development. If I ever enroll a program, I… Read more »

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