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Note-taking For Dummies

I might be alone here, but I love taking notes. It makes me feel like I'm in control of my learning. I can choose to include extra information or leave out unimportant info that seems to have no relevance. My notes are my notes and don't need to be checked by the professor for a grade.

Most people, I assume, are not like me. I am anal about my notes; my handwriting, the type of notebooks I use, the color of highlighters, everything. I need them to be perfect, or as close as they can. In high school, it felt like I was the designated note-giver. Like a shady drug deal, my notebook would be handed off in hallways or in the classroom so somebody could snap a picture or make photo copies.

Since I can't lend my notes out via the internet as that would be time consuming and useless unless you were in the exact same section of the exact same class at the same university as me. Here are some tips that might help you become a better note-taker!

I'm going to use my Biology notebook as an example, as these notes are probably my neatest and most organized. And, actually in English (sorry, Spanish 201 for neglecting you). I use a 5-subject notebook for Biology, but I actually used this same one last semester for another class and just ripped those pages out. It would be such a waste of a notebook if I didn't just reuse it.

The post-it flags on the side correspond to the chapter question on my study guides. For example, a flag that says 6-5 would mean that the answer to question 5 from chapter 6 is here. I usual color coordinate chapters as well, so all of the post it flags for chapter six would be green.

Another thing you can (and probably should) do is to highlight key terms, like definitions, or what a professor says will definitely be on a test. It helps keep what is really important separate from background information that might not appear on an exam.

For certain classes, it might be helpful to draw diagrams or charts. I have drawings for endo/exocytosis and the pictures help explain the process without having to use words. It's just another way of further remembering processes and definitions.

This might just make your notes more confusing, but sometimes professors forget something and have to backtrack. If your notes are already finished, putting the new information that corresponds with old notes on a separate page will make your notes out of order and harder to find what you are looking for. Instead, find blank spaces near the term you are adding more to and put a box around it. Correspond each "box" with asterisks next to the new term and the one it matches to. Or perhaps you were reading the textbook and you saw something that you thought was important and you want to include it in your notes. This might not be for everyone, but I like the way it keeps all of my notes together. Plus, it's another excuse to use new colored highlighters.

A second way to take notes might not be applicable to every class, but I did this for one of my classes last semester and it worked out quite nicely. If you professors are kind enough to put their power points online, take advantage of it! Print them out so there's 3-slides on each page with space for notes next to them. Instead of writing down information in a separate notebook and having to use 2 different mediums to study with, just print out the slides so your notes are in the same place.

Those were just a couple ways to make your notes more organized, colorful, and hopefully easier to study off of!


  1. Omg this was so helpful. I saw your picture of your notebook on Google images and I am glad you explained what all the colour flags and boxes were for thank you so much :)

    1. Aw, thank you! I'm glad that this post helped you out! :-)


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