Tips to Take Better Notes in Your Lecture Classes

by Sarah Adams

If you want to get more out of your study sessions, that means taking better lecture notes. Sometimes juggling attentive listening and coherent note-taking seems almost impossible, but with a little organizational guidance you may be surprised at what you can improve. Try these four tips to take better notes in your lecture classes:

Sit up at the front

When you sit in the back of the room, you may have to strain to see visual lecture components like PowerPoint presentations, and maybe even sound, depending on the acoustics of the room. Sitting in the front may eliminate the distractions of other students' conversations and puts you in an excellent place to ask questions of the professor. Arrive early to class to give yourself time to find a good seat.

There is no "right" way

How do you feel most comfortable taking notes? For some, the pen and paper method is best; for others, a laptop works wonderfully. Whichever method (or even combination of methods) that allow you to take the most complete, coherent notes is the best approach. If you find yourself struggling to listen, absorb the lesson, and take notes at the same time, ask your professor if you can record the lecture - either on a video or audio format - to review later for note-taking purposes.

Don't wait to edit notes

If you find yourself needing to make sense of your scribbles, make sure you do so directly after the lecture. Waiting too long may allow the mental bonds between your memory and the notes to evaporate and leave you with a mess that won't do you much good for study purposes. If you often forget or procrastinate, enlist the help of another student in class that has similar note-taking practices so you can help one another out after each lecture.

Think outside the text

Not everyone expresses and remembers lessons in text alone. In your own notes, don't be afraid to draw physical representations of important points. Obviously, due to the length and content of most lectures, it will likely be quick stick figures as opposed to involved pencil sketches, but it may help all the same with memorization and conceptualization.

Know the lesson

A lecture is meant to expand on information previously presented in class or found in the textbook. If you walk into a lecture expecting to learn everything from one session, you're doing your comprehension abilities a disservice. Take the time to at least skim the lesson and associated vocabulary before setting foot in the classroom. Not only could you be better equipped to understand the subjects being discussed, you may find that you have questions on the material to ask. This may be accomplished by reading the textbook or looking over previous class lecture notes, depending on your course.