The Best Note Taking Tips

Good notes = good grades.

And unfortunately, bad notes = bad grades.

Why? Well, the better notes you take, the easier studying will be. And the easier and more efficient your studying is, the higher your test scores.

So when you start school in a month or two, make sure you’re taking great notes!


Print slides

Nowadays, a lot of teachers post their PowerPoint presentations online for their students. My friends would usually just use these presentations are a study aid before tests, but they’re extremely helpful for note taking as well. In fact, printing out your teacher’s slides is the ultimate note taking hack. Taking notes on the slides during class saves so much time and energy. Rather than frantically copying down the written information on the slides, you can really listen to what your teacher is saying. If the slides are filled with diagrams and pictures, you can also label them and draw all over the paper in whatever way makes most sense to you (helpful for visual learners.)


Don’t write everything down

Be selective with your note taking. Even if you don’t have access to the slides, don’t copy too much from them, especially if they’re full of lengthy sentences. That’s just a waste of time. Your teacher usually won’t expect you to have memorized every single word they write. Sum up the most important ideas in your own words. You’ll learn the information better.

The words you should copy from slides are cold, hard facts that can be memorized, like dates, people’s names, etc. You’ll likely be quizzed on stuff like this. You can even highlight it, which will be useful when you’re making flashcards later on.


If you type, have paper also

If you usually type all your notes, make sure to also have paper ready. Sometimes, you may need to draw diagrams or illustrations. But paper is also useful when you want to organize the information in different ways that can’t be done quickly and easily on a laptop. Maybe you want to show the relationship between different concepts by dividing them into columns, circles, or flowcharts.

Having paper handy gives you freedom to do whatever. You’re probably carrying it around with you anyway, so you might as well put it to good use in this heavily digital age.


Pretend you’re taking notes for someone else

Many of us often struggle with the problem of illegible notes, especially in classes with fast-talking teachers. When I’m in a rush, my handwriting looks like random scribbles and my abbreviations end up reading like nonsense. My shorthand made sense in the moment, but it definitely didn’t a few weeks (or even hours) later.

One fix for this problem is to pretend you’re taking notes for someone else. You’ll be more motivated to keep everything neat, clear and understandable, which will make studying a whole lot easier. Your future self will thank you.


Go over your notes when you get home

Successful note taking doesn’t end when class does. Want your notes to really stick in your head? Review them when you get home. Read everything and make sure it all really makes sense to you. If not, you can make sure to ask your teacher any questions the next day, while all of the information is still very fresh in your mind.

Although this extra step may seem like overkill that just unnecessarily adds to your homework time, it will make a big difference in the long run. You’ll find yourself understanding the material more easily during class and performing better on tests.

For even more tips, check out our video below!

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  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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