Get on top of your classes by mastering note-taking

There are many different methods for taking notes that you can use in class. The key to progress in your studies is to learn and to master these methods. If you want to get good results and reach those high grades a good place to start is in class, with a pen and paper ready to go. The most important is to know when to use which method.

Here is a guide through 2 of the most useful ones:

The Cornell Method

The Cornell method helps you to organize and summarize your notes from the start. This method is good to use when you’re learning about something that is new to you because it’s easy to get an understanding of the major concepts and ideas of your notes.

How it works:

  1. Divide your paper into threes sections; on at the bottom of your page, one smaller right column, and a bigger left column.
  2. In the main (left) section, you put your general notes during class. This being the greatest topics and the most important facts.
  3. In the cues (right) section, you review what you learned in class. You do this either at the end or directly after class. Here you can also put questions and new vocabulary.
  4. In the summary (bottom) section, you summarize the notes during your studies; you can also write down own ideas or conclusions.


The Outlining Method

This is my personal favourite method, and also the one that most people are used to. This method allows you to take neat notes, that are easy to read through later. This method is great when you are supposed to go through a lot of facts for a test since the notes are easy to review and turn into study questions.

How it works:

  1. Begin your notetaking with putting the topic of the lesson at the top of your page. Beneath this you put the first main topic you are going through.
  2. While the lesson continues, proceed with organizing information under topics and sub-topics; in form of keywords, sentences and short paragraphs.
  3. For every sub-topic that is added, move it a bit to the right, and then back to the left again, when a new main topic is added.

Tips for the outlining method:

  1. Use different types of bullet points to organize.

2. Highlight new words and terms and underline important facts.


Now that you have taken your notes and left the lesson, what do you do with them? Put your notepad in your pile of textbooks and forget about it until next week? No. Once you have taken your notes the easiest and most important thing to do is to read through them. You can do it right after the lesson, halfway until the next one, or the day before the next lesson. It really doesn’t matter. Just read them.

Another thing you can do is to summarise your notes. When summarising your notes try to write it as if you are writing a textbook. Write in a flowing text with whole sentences that someone else in your class could easily understand. By doing this you are working with the information you have learned and you are showing yourself that you have taken in the knowledge. This also works as repetition to make sure that you will remember the information for a long time and not just until the next test. If you don’t like summarising your notes you can try making questions based on what you learned during the lesson and then testing yourself with them later, either shortly after the lesson or when preparing for a test.

Lastly, you can study the things that you didn’t quite understand during the lesson by researching it or reading up on it in your textbook. Make sure to write in your notes that you need to read up on something or else you won’t remember it when it comes to studying at home.

Good luck with your studying!

Here are some tips and tricks to help you master note taking and get the A you deserve.

  • Resist the urge to write on a computer and write by hand instead
  • Write the date/week and subject at the beginning of your notes
  • Split your notes up into sections and try to avoid writing a giant block of text
  • Use your owns words and you’ll learn it better
  • Allow yourself to doodle (in moderation)



Methods of note-taking [last day accessed 15/1-18] –

Writing by hand [last day accessed 15/1-18] –

Authors: Emmy Nilsson and Smilla Hedling

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