A Guide To Effective Note-Taking

November 20, 2020

In today’s digital age, when students can record entire online lessons, the act of note-taking is something people tend to take for granted. Listening to an audio recording of a class on repeat is just similar to highlighting the entire textbook when reviewing. Listening and note-taking skills generally go hand-in-hand, which is why it’s better for your memory recall and comprehension to take notes while you’re listening to a lecture. 

Many of us love the look of beautiful and curated notes like those we see on Instagram—complete with highlighted headers and little doodles in the margins. However, this can be incredibly time consuming and isn’t necessarily crucial to effective note taking. So how do you take notes in a way that’s sustainable and effective? Keep reading to find out!

Our Guide to Effective Note-Taking

Writing comprehensive notes shows your ability to digest the information you’re receiving at the moment. This is why some high school tutoring lectures are more about taking notes than answering tests. Unfortunately, the art of note-taking is slowly becoming lost with the digitisation of classes. It also contributes to a student’s complacency to cram studies and research at the last minute. Thankfully, you can also use technology to improve your note-taking habits further.

If you want to take notes during lectures in a way that’s both sustainable and effective, here are three things you should do:

1. Prepare for the lesson beforehand

Before you attend the class, it’s necessary to gain a little advantage over regular other students. Ideally, your lecturer would have an outline of what your session will be about from a syllabus. Otherwise, the previous session would have requirements for you to read up on before you attend the current one.

Consider these optional reading materials as mandatory requirements. You don’t have to master the lesson as you attend the class. Going over the reference materials and background texts will help you have a better understanding of the lesson’s flow. Since you won’t have to hear about the topics and terms for the first time, you’ll have more opportunities to write crucial notes during the lecture.

2. Learn how to listen and take notes simultaneously

After being ahead by doing your reading the night before, you can now pay more attention to your note-taking over your listening. Be more attentive to how your lecturer is presenting particular terms and key phrases. As an active listener, see how the different points connect and relate to the overall topic. Don’t be afraid to ask questions unless your professor has specific rules against this. It’s not a sign of weakness to clarify things. In fact, it shows an initiative of wanting to open up the topic to greater discourse.

3. Organise your notes for easy review

After having your notebook or laptop full of bullet points, headers and key phrases, it’s now time to go back to the drawing board. By using your newfound knowledge on the subject matter, set up a lesson plan that uses your reference materials, your notes and personal insights. It’s better to add your own understanding or analogies for better memorisation. Try to find a note-taking technique that is suitable for you in setting up your personal lesson plan. You can even exchange notes with classmates or group mates for clarifications and greater insights.


The key to getting better at note-taking is to plan ahead of time and know what works for you. You can aim to produce a beautiful page of notes, but remember that that isn’t crucial. Effective note-taking is learning how to put thoughts down on a page in a way that’s time-efficient and accurate.

Being better at note-taking prepares you for the greater challenges of the academe, especially if you plan to apply to a research-intensive course for your future studies.

Although it can be beneficial to hone your self-study skills, it doesn’t hurt to get a helping hand from others. Young Growth Academy offers HSC tutoring in Penrith to assist you in developing better studying habits. Book a risk-free trial with us today to see the difference our interactive learning experience can make!