College courses, especially the entry-level courses taken freshman year, are frequently offered in large, lecture-style classes.
For many students, this is a drastic change from the intimate classes and teacher-student rapport they got used to in high school. To help you adjust, here are a few simple tips for effective note-taking:
1. Effective note-taking begins even before classes start.
Make sure to purchase notebooks for each individual course, or use a multi-subject notebook. A clear organizational strategy (such as color-coding all materials associated with a particular course) will help you throughout the semester. If you’re using your computer to take notes, create clearly labeled folders for each class.
2. Don’t write down every word.
Use keywords or short summary phrases for context and bullet out relevant points your instructor makes. Leave space for notes between sections, so if the instructor returns to the same material later, you can go up to a previous section and keep all of your information organized. If you treat each your notes for each class like an outline, you’ll have a great study guide in place for any test.
3. Read any assigned texts before class.
Getting in this habit is essential. By reading the chapter before class, you’ll be able to look up terminology you don’t understand before you get to class, so you won’t get lost while stuck on an unfamiliar word.
4. Use short-hand.
Even though many people cringe at language that looks more suitable for a text message than schoolwork, they’re your notes. If you feel comfortable writing "b4," "b/c," or "w/e" in your notes, do it!
5. Think about potential exam questions during class.
Once you’ve taken a test or quiz in the class, you’ll have a good idea of the way the instructor asks questions. Keep this format in mind while you’re taking notes, and jot down questions you think fit the professor’s framework.