Perfecting Your Note Taking: High School Edition

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Whether it be in-class or from a textbook, it’s helpful for students to develop effective notetaking habits. It makes studying easier when an exam is coming up. However, in taking notes, some students are tempted to write everything down—or too little. Also, if your notes are messy, it’s hard to study with success. How should you take notes? This article will outline how to take notes to absorb the most information. 


  • Though it may seem like you need a Staples-warehouse amount of writing supplies to take good notes, don’t be fooled. All you need is a notebook/paper and a pen. 
  • Alternatively, you can use a laptop. 
  • While lined college-ruled paper is the most common. Try experimenting with unruled printer paper. This can accommodate different note-taking structures easily. 

Top Tips

  • This article from GoodNotes outlines the pros and cons of five note-taking styles. They emphasize the importance of developing a consistent note-taking method for best recall of information. 
  • While writing, find a way to emphasize what’s important. For example, you could highlight, draw a star, or even write “this is important”. This will help when you revisit your notes to study.
  • Try summarizing ideas in your own words rather than writing what the lecturer or textbook says word-for-word.
  • Record examples! This will help you understand and remember concepts.   
  • Finally, notes are nothing without review. It’s best to review as soon as possible after recording notes.

Lecture Notes

  • According to this research study published in 2019, the differences between recall of typed and written notes are negligible. 
  • However, transcribing the entire lecture isn’t the most efficient strategy. Robert Williams and Alan Eggert stated in their 2002 article, Notetaking in College Classes: Student Patterns and Instructional Strategies, effective notes follow the framework of the lecture and include important details from it.
  • However, the recall is key. If you first type notes, then rewrite them by hand—extracting the most important elements— you can improve your recall of a lecture.
  • Try “sketchnotes”, where writing and diagrams or doodles are interspersed. This can help link ideas and relationships, and may further aid you if you’re a visual learner.

Textbook Notes

  • Active note-taking techniques are more useful than transcribing exact quotes. Think about what you’re writing before you write it.
  • Following are the steps to take for the most recall possible:
  1. Read the passage (or part of the passage if it’s particularly long)
  2. Without looking at the text, record as much as you can remember 
  3. Look at the passage and fill in what you forgot

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