How to take better notes

Learning Skills Centre Jo G
Learning Skills Centre Jo G Holmesglen Staff • 4 September 2023

Organized notes are an important tool for achieving success in your studies. It’s an active process that aids memory and understanding and is useful for reviewing.

Studies show that those who don’t review will forget 40 per cent of information learned after the first 24 hours, and 60 per cent after 48 hours.

The physical act of writing can also help you remember better than just listening or reading. Research shows that taking notes by hand is more effective than typing on a laptop. 

How do I take better notes?

  • Write short, succinct sentences.
  • Pictures are easier to remember than words so if you’re short on time, draw an image.
  • If you like to colour code, don’t do it during initial note-taking but later while reviewing.
  • Save time and use abbreviations and symbols.
  • Use your own words that mean something to you.
  • Write questions to yourself if there’s something you don’t understand. Don’t skip over it and hope you’ll understand later.
  • Don’t try to write everything down. It’s better to be engaged and have an effective system of recording the main points.

There are many systems of note-taking, but the Cornell Method is tried and true.

The Cornell Method

This was created at Cornell University in the Unites States. There are two columns on the page and five steps: record, questions, recite, reflect, review. The beauty of it is it also doubles as an effective study system.

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If you would like more information on your note-taking skills, make an appointment with a Learning Skills support teacher:

Go to our booking page at:

The Learning Skills Centre site in Brightspace has more ideas & handy note-taking templates ready to go.