All Posts

Published in General

The Art of Taking Notes in College Lectures

By Scholarly

6 min read

Share this post


Taking notes during college lectures is a vital skill that can greatly enhance your learning experience. Effective note-taking not only helps you retain information but also allows you to review and consolidate your understanding of the subject matter. In this article, we will explore the art of taking notes in college lectures, discussing its history, benefits, best practices, techniques, and challenges.


Past State

In the past, before the advent of modern technology, note-taking in college lectures was primarily done using pen and paper. Students would bring notebooks and pens to class and jot down important points and information provided by the professor. This method required students to listen attentively and quickly write down key details.

Current State

In the current state, note-taking has evolved with the integration of digital tools and devices. Many students now rely on laptops or tablets to take notes during lectures. These devices offer the advantage of speed and organization, allowing students to type their notes efficiently.


  • Enhanced learning: Taking notes during college lectures helps you actively engage with the material and process the information, leading to better understanding and retention.

  • Organization: Well-structured notes serve as a valuable resource for reviewing and studying later, ensuring you have an organized record of the course content.

  • Active listening: Note-taking encourages active listening, as you need to carefully listen to the professor's explanations and extract the most important points.

  • Personalization: Taking notes allows you to personalize the information, highlighting key concepts, adding your own thoughts and insights, and making connections.

  • Preparation for exams: Well-crafted notes serve as a comprehensive study guide, aiding in exam preparation and revision.


Taking notes during college lectures is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you engage actively with the material and deeply understand the concepts. Moreover, it assists in capturing important details, providing evidence for future reference and review. Lastly, note-taking supports lifelong learning by fostering effective study habits and critical thinking skills.

Best Practices

  • Come prepared: Familiarize yourself with the course material and readings before the lecture, so you can better follow along and jot down relevant points.

  • Use abbreviations and symbols: Develop a system of abbreviations and symbols that make your note-taking quicker and more efficient.

  • Focus on key information: Rather than writing everything down, focus on capturing the main ideas, relevant examples, and any additional insights offered by the professor.

  • Organize your notes: Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and indentation to structure your notes and make them easier to review.

  • Review and revise: Regularly review and revise your notes to reinforce your understanding and identify any gaps in your knowledge.

Pros and Cons


  • Enables active engagement
  • Supports information retention
  • Facilitates review and revision
  • Provides a personalized learning experience
  • Guides exam preparation


  • Can be distracting if not done effectively
  • Requires good listening skills
  • May take time and effort to consolidate
  • Can be challenging to keep up with fast-paced lectures
  • Relies on personal interpretation


There are several popular note-taking tools available that can enhance your college lecture experience:

  1. Evernote: A versatile digital note-taking platform that allows you to capture and synchronize your notes across multiple devices.

  2. OneNote: Microsoft's digital notebook, which offers powerful organization features and seamless integration with other Microsoft products.

  3. Notion: A comprehensive productivity tool that enables you to create structured and collaborative notes, with the added ability to incorporate media and multimedia elements.


Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is a widely used note-taking technique that involves dividing your page into three sections: a narrow left column, a wide right column, and a separate section at the bottom. The left column is used for key points and cues, the right column for detailed notes, and the bottom section for summarizing the main ideas.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a visual note-taking technique that allows you to organize information in a non-linear manner. Start with a central idea or concept and branch out, connecting related ideas with lines. This method promotes creativity and helps you see connections between different concepts.

Outline Method

The outline method involves organizing your notes into headings and subheadings, similar to an outline structure. Start with the main topic as the main heading and use subheadings to divide the content into subtopics. This method provides a clear structure and makes it easier to review and locate specific information.

Flowchart Method

The flowchart method involves using arrows, boxes, and symbols to represent information and their relationships. This method is particularly useful for illustrating processes, workflows, and cause-effect relationships.

Mapping Method

The mapping method involves drawing diagrams or maps to represent relationships between ideas or concepts. This visual technique helps with understanding complex relationships and identifying key connections.


  • Deciphering handwriting: If you opt for traditional pen and paper note-taking, your handwriting may become a challenge when reviewing your notes later.

  • Distractions: Digital note-taking opens the door to distractions, such as social media or unrelated websites, which can hinder your focus and productivity.

  • Information overload: It can be challenging to determine what information to include and what to leave out, especially in fast-paced lectures.

  • Note organization: With the abundance of notes collected over time, organizing and categorizing them can become overwhelming.

  • Translating spoken word: Sometimes, the professor's explanations or examples may not translate well into written notes, requiring extra effort to capture the essence accurately.

Potential Online Apps that relate to the topic

  1. Notion: A versatile note-taking app that allows you to create organized and customizable notes, with the option to incorporate media, tasks, and calendars.

  2. Evernote: A popular note-taking app that syncs your notes across devices and offers features like voice recording and document scanning.

  3. Google Keep: A simple and convenient app for creating and organizing notes, with the ability to set reminders and collaborate with others.

  4. Microsoft OneNote: Microsoft's digital note-taking app that offers powerful organization features and seamless integration with other Microsoft products.

  5. Bear: An elegant note-taking app for Mac and iOS devices, with a focus on simplicity and distraction-free writing.


In conclusion, effective note-taking during college lectures is a valuable skill that can significantly enhance your learning experience. By following best practices, utilizing effective techniques, and leveraging digital tools when appropriate, you can improve your understanding, retention, and organization of course material. Remember, note-taking is a personal process, so find a method that works best for you and adapt it to your own style and preferences.


Try Scholarly

It's completely free, simple to use, and easy to get started.

Join thousands of students and educators today.

Are you a school or organization? Contact us