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Take Good Notes

Complete reading assignments before class and re-read lecture notes from the previous class

Even if you don’t understand everything in the textbook, reading carefully will create a foundation of knowledge that will help you to understand the lecture material. Re-reading your previous class notes will help you connect old information to new.

Develop a note taking system that works for you

  • Develop an abbreviation system for common words so you don’t waste time writing the entire word. Some common abbreviations include &, +, @, ex. Use the same system you use for text messaging, but don’t make the mistake of using these abbreviations in your formal writing!
  • Don’t attempt to write every word. Listen for the main points of the lecture and for examples or scenarios that will help you understand the concept.
  • Mark any omissions in your notes so you can fill them in after class. Draw an asterisk (*) or an exclamation point (!) in the margin of your notes to identify areas where you weren’t able to capture the complete thought, title, name, or other important information. After class, ask your professor or someone sitting near you to clarify these points and to help you fill in the gaps.
  • Create a structure for your notes. The Cornell Note Taking Method provides a built-in study tool you can use when you review your notes before a test.

Utilize technology

Ask your professor for permission to make an audio recording of his/her lectures or to take notes using your laptop. Many instructors Podcast their lectures so students can listen to them again after class. Log in to iTunes University to see which of your professors are Podcasting their lectures. Remember that listening to a Podcast or other audio recording does not replace being in class or taking notes!

Review your notes as soon as possible after class and periodically between tests

You should review your notes immediately after class to fill in omissions and to make sure your writing is legible. Make time to review your notes weekly and to add to your notes as your thoughts develop. The more times you review your notes, the more likely you will be able to recall the information on your next test.  For information on scheduling regular review time, check out our time management resources.

Talk with people about what you’re learning

Think about a time when you taught someone a new skill or when you explained a concept to a friend. Did you find that your own understanding of that skill or concept was enhanced by your attempt? Talking about and explaining information in your own words is an effective way to solidify the information for yourself. Make time to talk with your professors during their office hours and get to know the tutors in the Writing and Learning Commons and the Mathematics Tutoring Center. Tutors are successful students who can help you review course content and provide you with study strategies that are suited to your personal learning style.



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