How do I make sure I take notes?I always take notes, but they never make sense because I wrote a lot of things. I don't understand how you're supposed to take notes. When i sumarize I don't add...

How do I make sure I take notes?

I always take notes, but they never make sense because I wrote a lot of things. I don't understand how you're supposed to take notes. When i sumarize I don't add enough info. do I take notes?

Expert Answers
dswain001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There  is no exact science to note-taking because everyone has different learning styles. Some people can hear a lecture once and be able to recall important facts covered in that lecture. Others only need to read the material once or twice. Even more so, there are individuals that require hands-on learning. That being said; perhaps the reason your notes don't make sense to you is because while taking them, you are unable to give your full attention to the lecture.

Here are a few tips that may be helpful:

1. Outline: Don't try to copy what your teacher is saying word-for-word. Instead outline key points in the lecture and make bulleted notes of important information. This will keep your notes organized and make them easier to read.

2. Textbook: The information covered in class is more than likely coming from your textbook. Now that you have your notes outlined, it will be easy to refer to the textbook for any additional information that  you may have missed or that  you  do not fully understand.

3. Share: Get with a reliable classmate and compare notes. Perhaps they jotted something down that you missed and vice-versa. Reviewing the notes with a classmate does double-duty. Not only are you  able to get the notes that you missed, but  you are also exposing yourself to the material a second time, which will help you to recall the information later on.

4. Tape recorder: If all else fails, ask your teacher for permission to bring a small tape recorder to class and record her lecture. This helped me a great deal when I went to college and some of my classes were in auditoriums with about 80 more students. By recording the lecture, you are able to play it back later on. Stopping and starting it to help you study and write out your notes.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My experience in the classroom tells me that teachers love for students to take notes and most students hate to take notes! One definite value of taking notes: It is impossible to take notes if you are not really listening. This probably explains why teachers love students' taking notes. It keeps them actively involved in class. As has been said here, taking notes is a skill that develops with practice.

One tip I would pass along is to use "white space" and graphics in taking notes. Don't cram your information onto the pages of your notebook. For instance, skip lines between blocks of information. Put some information in a box, or a star, or a circle to separate it from the rest. Creating a "picture" on the page may help you to remember the information later.

Other tips: Don't write in sentences. Do develop your own shorthand (abbreviations and symbols to stand for words). And--very important--don't hesitate to ask your teacher to repeat information or to clarify what you think you heard.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Taking notes is definitely a skill you are going to need in high school and college.  Take a look at the link above and be sure to check out the handouts and all in every link.  I think you will get some ideas which will work well for you.  Study skills are almost never taught...don't feel bad that you have to ask this question.  Be glad that you ARE asking it and getting many students don't and then it's too late to change the outcome.  Good Luck!

alohaspirit eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You should try organizing your notes into Cornell notes.  You divide your paper into two parts.  The left hand side is about 1-2 inches wide and that is the section where you can form questions, write topics, vocabulary words, concepts, etc.  The right hand side is the wider part of the page and that is for you notes.  At the end of your notes you summarize everything from that reading or lecture, that way it makes sense to you.  This also becomes a studyguide since you can cover up the right hand side and just see the topics, questions, words on the left hand side.  I use this in my classes that I teach.  Here is a website that can show you what this would look like:


lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Building on what epollack said, I have found outlining to be the most effective way for me. When I am listening to a lecture, sometimes I can almost hear the outline the lecturer is working from--and a lot of them do work straight from an outline, using the numbers, letters, and Roman numerals epollack lists in post 5 above. I find I can just about reproduce what the speaker is using, especially when they pause--they are usually going back to make sure they have covered the major points of a topic, before moving on.

arrellbelle | Student

Usually, when I take notes, I divide them into color. I have a paragraph summarizing one paragraph and bullet points under each point I have, in case I need extra reiteration. Also, I suggest that you re-read the paragraph if you're having difficulty understanding and summarizing in your own points because writing it your way helps you retain the information better.

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epollock | Student

To many students. Cornell simply requires students to write more than they normally would.  Most find it too cumbersome.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Taking notes in class has some benefits as well as disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that the student may not be able to pay full attention to what is being said by the speaker. Thus, the direct learning from listening is reduced.

On the other hand, notes help in creating a permanent record of what was spoken by the teacher. This records or notes then help you to revise. When notes are taken properly it has another major advantage. Note taking, that is limited to some key ideas and phrases, helps students to concentrate on what is being. It also forces them to think about what is being said and identify the most important aspects of what is being discussed.

To minimize the disadvantages and maximize the benefits of note taking, it is best to limit notes to important words or phrases. Trying to note down everything spoken by the teacher is not advisable. Taking notes of this type may appear somewhat difficult in the beginning, but with practice it will become easy.

epollock | Student


Don't worry and relax. Note taking is a way for you to review what you hear.  The more comfortable you are with the material, the better your notes will be.

One of the first things that you should is do is ask yourself what method would be most comfortable to me?

Generally, the methods are:

1) Cornell system--You can find this method on-line by typing in Cornell notes in a web browser. This system uses special paper that you can easily make by dividing the paper into three sections: The left side is for general themes, the right side is for details, and the bottom part is for questions you have and summary of the notes.

2) Charting-- is useful for processes and it requires practice with flow chart symbols and ability to use charts like columns and tables.  All of the details are put into chart form.

3) Outlining--is the most popular form for note taking. Major ideas get Roman numerals like I or VII, sub-ideas get Arabic numerals like 1, 3, and details get letters like A, B, C, and sub-details get either small letters like a, b, c, and even more sub-details get Arabic numerals again like 1, 2, 3, etc.

4) Mapping-- is using a tree structure approach with lines connect to the center of the page and ideas and details are drawn as pictures symbols or anything all connected back to the center of the page.

5) Line noting--requires you to take abbreviated notes and put them into very short sentences one after the other so you have sentences of 4 5, or 6 words, and then read down like a summary.

Try and practice note taking people first, then TV shows, then commercials, and experiment with the different methods.  Then use the one that works best for you.

Good luck in school with whatever system you use.


plamena | Student


My smart friends well dat would be me!!!
I can take notes, but I can't make the right sentences

with the right info. My BFF and me r the smartest in class, but

she needs help understanding things. If I no something I can

explain it. But the teacher doesn't like teach us. She makes us just read it outloud or read it at home then she gives us a

quiz. :'(

aj11 | Student

First and most importantly you have to fully understand the materials covered in class. If you understand the class fully, no matter how messy and unorganized your notes are, you will be able to learn something. But taking notes is extremely important as well. If you are not used to taking notes, first try to borrow some of your smart friends' notes and see how theirs are organized. It will probably be categorized in nice ways.