Study tip of the week: Taking Notes

Effective note taking will go a long way in your success in school or college studies. Taking down notes effectively will not only help you increase your knowledge but retain things for the all important exams.

Gather the note-taking materials

Get a note-book with plenty of pages and divide them in-to-parts say, 3 parts for physics, chemistry and biology.

Have atleast 2 colour pens. One for taking notes, and other to mark important theories, definititions, points etc.,

Come Prepared

If you have a lecture or class on a subject in biology the next day, go through the text book a day before on the subject. This will get you a brief idea on the concepts, things that the teacher is going to talk about in the class.

You may mark things that you find unique and important in that chapter.


When the lecture starts, don’t start writing down everything the lecturer or teacher says.

Try and understand what s/he is trying to convey, as you won’t be hearing it again. The moment s/he stops, jot down the points you feel is important.

Clear your doubts

Ask questions. There would be things that you might have come up while reading the text book, which the teacher might not have covered, or you did not understand even though she explained.

You need to get a clarification on that if you feel it is important. Teachers like to answer queries during the class rather than when they are in the staff room, so do not be afraid and put up your question.

Keep it crisp and quick

Write the key words and concepts, like the theory, definition, name of the theorist, date, year, examples if any etc.,

You can always refer the text book for detailed information.

Try to avoid things that you already know, and gather as much information which is new and unique.

Use the shorthand technique, say, the one that we use while texting on mobile phones, to write down notes much faster, because at times it is impossible to keep up pace with the teacher.

For eg., write “wd” for would, “cd” for could “w/o” for without and so on..

Though it is not a practice in India, students in the West take recording devices to colleges to record the whole lecture. This allows them to dedicate their time in class to listen and jot down whatever possible. They check out later whatever is missing from the recorder. You can give it a try if mobile etc., are allowed in your schools or colleges.

Adding other contents or references

Once you are done with the notes, you can add contents from outside, like text books, internet, reference books from library etc.,

For eg., you can add a research done, on a theory you studied in class, and write it down. This will help you to releate things in a better way and help you gather more information on the subect.

By doing this you connect your text book theories and practical work done in the field, and giving these references during exams will gurantee you valuable extra marks.

Use symbols and diagrams

Make a hierarchy chart, a graph, diagrams etc., in the note book, as visual things get registered in your brains much faster and stay longer than written text.

Colouring them gives it a more visual impact and helps you retain quickly from memory. Do not however spent too much time on getting the perfect colour combinations.

Go through the notes

Review the notes once your are done, may be the next day or same day evening. Just going through it once will help you retain things in memory and also fill out things that you might have missed.