The two rules of making effective notes in your lectures

Notepad and pen

There is a lot to this notetaking malarkey, especially when your lecturer is speeding through stuff a million times quicker than you can write it. Luckily, there are a couple of pointers that can really help speed the process up and make your study easier in the long run too. This probably works better on arts subjects, but it may work for science and maths based lectures too. See what you think and let me know if it works for you or if you’ve got any other tips of your own. Anyway, my suggestions for making notes more effectively are:

1. Only write down the stuff you don’t actually know – If you try and write everything down in the lecture for no reason other than because it’s just been said, you’ll be adding a lot of unnecessary words and you’ll waste time on facts that were in your head all along.

2. Read your finished notes within the next 24 hours and attempt to take the information in. On this basis, you can then do further background reading if it’s still unclear or if you want to cement your knowledge by viewing the bigger picture once more. When I worked this method out, the amount of time it saved me was amazing. Strangely enough, I also found the work to be a lot more interesting and easier to process as I went along. It’s funny how something that seems so inconsequential can become such an important everyday process. And it’s nice to know the old adage of ‘less is more’ can sometimes be true.

There are many different ways to study and take notes well. If this doesn’t work, there are plenty other ways to try and I’ll explain some more in-depth methods at a later date. But I just wanted to pass this quick tip over before the lectures begin again. Good luck!


  1. What I did in my degree days was, I took down notes in short forms, whatever I could catch from the lecturer’s slides and lecture. And when I get back to my hostel, I re-write those notes into something that made sense.

    That way, I made sure that my notes are up-to-date, and I didn’t have to worry about my notes when the exams were approaching (that was why my notes were photocopied many times over by other students!).

  2. Other students often asked me to share my notes, but they were useless to anyone but myself. If I didn’t understand something, I just briefly noted the topic and basic idea for later.

    The brief reminder was simply a memory jog to go and find out more through books and research until I did have a good understanding of the topic.

    So while my notes were very personal, one of my good uni friends used a technique similar to yours, pelf. She was very popular indeed when it came to sharing notes!

    Sometimes it does help to get another person’s perspective, so it’s never a bad thing to exchange quality notes and see if you can pick up other ideas that you may have missed.

    A lot of tutors now issue their slides and worksheets to students, which is also helpful for notes. Sounds like we didn’t get that privilege. Sniff!

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