Lecture Notes

Are your notes sometimes difficult to understand later? Or do you feel like you never get the right material in your notes come test day? Follow the guidelines in the five categories listed below to become a note-taking master!

  • Before Class Preparation
  • During the Lecture
  • After the Lecture (The Same Day)
  • Once a Week Review
  • Before the Test

Before Class Preparation

Familiarity with the material, continuity from lecture to lecture, and attending class are essential for you to take quality notes. Before each class ask yourself, “Did I...

  • READ the chapter to be discussed in class?”
  • REVIEW my notes/the teacher’s slides from the previous class?”
  • PLAN on attending class on time and sitting near the front of the class?”

Doing each of these will help your mind be better prepared to take quality notes.


Avoid planning to get the notes from friends if possible. They aren’t as meaningful as your own.

Print out the teacher’s slides (3 per page) and take notes directly on the slides.

During the Lecture

Because you have already READ, REVIEWED, and PLANNED as listed above, you can successfully identify the MAIN TOPIC, KEY POINTS, and THE ORGANIZATION OF IDEAS. Following is the first step of how to successfully track the most important stuff for reviewing later.


  • Separate your paper into two sections: one for taking notes on what the teacher presents and the other for reducing those notes into main ideas (as shown above).
  • Write as completely as possible with legible handwriting.
  • Try taking notes on only one side of each sheet of paper so you can lay it all out in front of you when you study.

After the Lecture (The Same Day)

CLEANUP your notes! It will be harder tomorrow to decipher scribbles, fill in missing information, and emerge with a complete understanding of the lecture. Read through your notes and highlight main ideas. Reduce these main ideas into concise summaries and write them in the left column.


The sooner after the lecture you can do this the better

Recite out loud the main idea summaries as you create and write them. Recitation is the most important step in transferring material from short-term to long-term memory.

Once a Week Review

Review ALL of the notes your have taken since the beginning of the semester. Making 3x5 note cards is a good way to review on-the-go.


  • Schedule 30-60 minutes per week per subject.
  • Review on the bus, train, walking to and from classes, etc.
  • Recite out loud

Before the Test

Make an OUTLINE. Think about what you have learned and create a brief outline of the main ideas. Reflect on how the pieces of the subject fit together.


  • Continue reciting the material out loud.
  • First, try making the outline without the aid of your notes and then use your notes to fill in missing ideas.