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Good note-taking is fundamental to success in college. Because students work and learn differently, there’s no single prescription for taking effective notes. There are, however, ways to take notes that maximize students' ability to get down the most important material and do so in a form that best suits their learning preferences. This 50-minute lesson provides an overview of note-taking methods and strategies for creating succinct, clear, and concise notes.


  • Understand how fundamental taking good notes is to college success
  • Recognize that note-taking has benefits beyond their use as a study aid. Taking notes promotes active learning, boosts comprehension and retention, provides practice prioritizing and organizing information, increases alertness, focuses attention and extends attention span, and enhances creativity
  • Realize that good note-taking isn’t just intuitive; it is a skill that can be improved upon with attentiveness and willingness to experiment
  • Experiment with different note-taking systems
  • Develop a plan to preview scheduled material to be covered before class, use an active note-taking strategy in class, and review/revise/create study materials with notes after class

Instructor resources

Armbruster, B.B. (2009). Notetaking from Lectures. In R.R. Flippo & D.C. Caverly (Eds.), Handbook of college reading and study strategy research (pp. 220-248). New York: Routledge.

Sellers, D., Dochen, C., and Hodges R (2015). Academic Transformation: The Road to College Success (pp 49-60). Pearson.

Pauk, W., and Owens, RJQ. (2008). How to study in college (pp. 224-266). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

VanderStoep, SW and PR Pintrich (2008). Learning to Learn (pp 135-154). Pearson.

Summary of actions

  •  Activity #1:  Have students fill out the self-assessment questionnaire, answering each Yes or No question. Allow students to score their own questionnaires, earning one point for each Yes answer to questions 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9 and for each No answer to questions 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10. Students with high scores are already using good note-taking strategies and students with low scores need improvement in their note-taking approach. Any student scoring less than 10, however, could stand to improve.
  • Using the slides, emphasize the importance of good note-taking.
  •  Highlight the role preparation plays in attentiveness, focus, and effective note-taking in-class.
  •  Introduce and describe different note-making systems.
  •  Explain the application and pros and cons of each.
  •  Explain that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach; what works for one student may not work for another.
  • Reiterate the importance of preparation and an active approach to note-taking.
  • Emphasize the point that review is vital to learning.
  • Activity #2: Ask students to evaluate their own note-taking style in contrast with the systems introduced in the session. Then, have them identify how they might improve their current approach by experimenting with one of the note-taking systems (can be done with activity #2 instructions individually, in groups, or whole classroom discussion)

Other handouts you might use

T-Notes Template

Last Updated: 01/17/2020

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The Academic Success Center, Texas A&M University.