The Ultimate Guide To Note Taking In Class [Infographic]

16th March 2015 Chris Clark Study

Many studious types will swear that they can take everything in from their lecture or seminar just by listening and engaging, but research suggests that can’t be true. Approximately 60% of information can be forgotten after only 9 hours.

If you don’t want to start your assignment or exam with only 40% of the knowledge you could have, you should probably make a change. Sure, revising in your student accommodation post-lecture can help, or you could let this infographic show you why note taking is so important, and the best methods for doing so, depending on what kind of person you are.

Here’s The Ultimate Guide To Note Taking In Class. Remember, don’t just read it, take note.

Full transcript and options to embed this infographic can be found at the bottom of this page.

Ultimate Guide to taking notes in class


Ultimate guide to note taking in class

Effective note taking in class is essential.

The forgetting curve
What happens if you don’t organise and review lecture notes

As well as memorisation, note taking:

• Promotes active listening
• Improves understanding
• Provides a framework for revision

Get the most out of your next lecture by learning how to take notes right.

Pen vs. keyboard

When it comes to effective learning, handwriting trumps typing.

Researchers at UCLA found that students who handwrite notes and study them afterwards perform best when it comes to answering factual and conceptual questions.


Factual question: What is the purpose of adding calcium propionate to bread?

Conceptual question: If a person’s epiglottis was not working properly, what would be likely to happen?

3 effective note taking systems

There’s no correct way to take notes – but here are some popular methods to try.

1. Outline method
Ideas are written out in an organised layout based on space indentation

Ideal for:
• When presentation outlines (such as slides) have already been provided
• Taking notes from written material.
Things to consider:
+ Main points can be easily turned into questions during review time
– Doesn’t show relationships or connectedness between arguments

2. Cornell method
A divided notes page system developed by Dr Walter Pauk of Cornell University

Ideal for:
• Producing and remembering summaries of key ideas from lectures
• Preparing and revising for exams

4. When reviewing your notes:
i. Turn the key words/ideas in the Cues column into questions
ii. Cover up your notes
iii. Try answering the questions from memory

Things to consider:
+ Printable Cornell notepaper is available online
– This method requires extra time to complete the summary column

3. Mapping
Ideas are visually connected in a non-linear manner

Ideal for:
• Content heavy lectures

Things to consider:
+ Can be neatened up later by recreating the map on a program such as
– May be difficult if unsure of lecture structure in advance

General tips

Before the lecture
• Read the relevant textbook chapters and/or review the slides
o You’ll become familiar with the topic and can identify the key ideas easier

During the lecture
• Don’t write down everything, and always paraphrase what you hear
• Use shorthand, abbreviations and symbols
• Listen for cues to important points: repetition, changes in voice inflection from lecturer
• For large lecture halls, sit as close to the front as possible

After the lecture
• Review your notes within 24 hours
o Identify any gaps in understanding, and consult your lecturer, classmates or textbook for help

Be prepared, stay focused and follow-up with revision. With good practice, you’ll become a noteworthy student in no time.


Bone, D. 1988. Business of listening. Crisp Publications.
Cal Poly Student Academic Services. Note taking systems.
Cornell University. The Cornell note-taking system.
Mueller, P. and Oppenheimer, D. 2014. The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science. 25(6).
Pauk, W. 1974. How to study in college. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Perkins, K. and Wieman, C. 2005. The surprising impact of seat location on student performance. Phys. Teach. 43(30).
Sicinski, A. How to mind map guide: a beginners
University of Winconsin Stout. The outlining method.
University of Manchester. Different models of note-taking.

Chris Clark

Chris Clark

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