Note Taking Strategies While Listening to Lectures

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Choose the most important information to include in your notes.

Learning to take notes during lectures is an important skill for college students, since much of the information professors teach is in lecture form -- but it may take some practice. Swap information with a few classmates so that you can compare your notes and make certain you don't miss anything important.

  1. Look For a Pattern

    • Look for a pattern in the way your professor presents information during the lecture, recommends the University of Houston-Victoria. Listen for clues that might tell you what your professor will talk about next, or when he is switching subjects. Pay attention to transitional words and phrases, such as "next, we will discuss," which let you know that the lecture is moving to a new topic. Try to determine if lectures follow the same pattern as your text book or other reading material, and use those books as guidelines for organizing your notes. If your textbook is mentioned, write down key phrases and page numbers so that you can refer back to your book later when reviewing your notes.

    Handouts and Visual Cues

    • If your professor gives you handouts during the lecture, use them to make note-taking simpler. Rather than repeating information that is covered in the handout, attach the handout directly to your notes, and refer to the handout in your notes if necessary. Alternatively, write your notes for the day directly on the handout, expanding on information as it is covered in the lecture. Use notes that your professor displays on the board or Power Point to guide your note-taking. Always copy down anything the professor writes on a board, especially drawings or diagrams.

    Unclear Information

    • When your professor presents new information that is unclear, make note of it in your notes so that you can look it up or ask questions later. Write down any new vocabulary with a note stating that you do not understand it so that you will know to look it up after class.


    • Find a way to organize your lecture notes so that they work for you and also flow along with the lecture itself. If lectures tend to bounce from one idea to the next with no discernible pattern, taking notes in a cluster pattern that allows you to make connections later on may work best for you. Alternatively, using an outline pattern with main points and subheadings is a good choice for keeping organized notes. Use abbreviations, numbers and symbols whenever possible to make your note taking more efficient.

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