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5 Best Note Taking Techniques for College Students

There are many different challenges and fresh experiences in college. Getting accustomed to open-ended lectures is one of the challenges that many students face. There is a far larger expectation of personal initiative and discipline in college than in high school, so taking effective lecture notes is imperative.

Let’s look at some of the best note-taking strategies crucial for a college student’s academic success.

1.  The Cornell Method

This note-taking method, developed in the 1940s by a Cornell professor, offers college students a structured framework that facilitates notes in a condensed fashion. The page is divided into two columns by note-takers: the right column is used for more comprehensive notes, and the left is used for essential words and phrases.

The important points stressed in a text or lecture are often written in a few words and included in the notes section. Students use the keyword section to record pertinent queries and critical points as they check their notes following class. Students can summarize the material beneath the two columns, giving them a convenient space to turn to when skimming through their notes.

The Cornell approach is very effective, especially for coursework that deals with concepts and ideas rather than pure recollection, which is why it has been around for decades.

2.  The Outline Method

The outline method provides a very structured and logical format that needs minor post-class modification or evaluation. This approach is also beneficial for students who need to retain and process a lot of information.

The outline technique rationally presents information by its intuitive structure and application. The far left is where the lecture’s important points are located on a page. Each topic is followed by subtopics that are highlighted to the right. Tucked to the right of the heading is space for supporting details, notes, and questions after each subtopic.

This approach can be applied in various professional spaces outside the classroom.

3.  The Mapping Method

This tool for taking notes in college is highly beneficial when taking down complex information. Another benefit of mapping is that it can be used to complement other note-taking techniques. This type of note-taking might be very appealing to visual learners.

Students start a mind map by outlining the primary subject. Subtopics are then developed from the main theme from there. In addition to the subtopics, students note any relevant details and queries. As this process continues, a web of interconnected ideas, topics, and thoughts unfold.

It is suggested to use color to accent and highlight information. Students can find it beneficial to review the material after class and rewrite their notes online in a more coherent and articulate format.

4.  The Charting Method

This method is an effective note-making technique for texts and lectures rich in facts and statistics. This approach also works well with lectures with predictable structures and standardized presentation of information.

Students plan out what will be discussed in a lecture before class and divide a page into columns, with each column being headed by a pertinent keyword. Note-takers write down key concepts and words in the lecture in their corresponding columns. This approach excels in subjects where there is a significant amount of memorization required.

5.  The Sentence Method

This technique enables students to process and summarize the material in real-time in their own words, making it an excellent tool for remembering information from a less structured manner of lecture. The sentence method gives the note-taker a more developed, clear, and understandable final output than notes that collect words and phrases.

When listening to fast-paced lectures that cover a lot of material, the sentence technique is an excellent resource. Students write down new ideas, information, and themes in complete sentences, numbering each phrase as the lecture continues. The format is straightforward and free of the physical restrictions of charts and boxes.

Tips for taking Lecture notes

  • Don’t restrict yourself to just one way of taking notes in college. Some note-taking methods may not work well for you, just as they may not be a good fit for a particular class. Consider a method suitable for your specific requirements. Try another way if the first one doesn’t seem to be working.


According to research, handwritten online notes help college students learn study material more effectively since they boost short- and long-term information retention. Digital notes provide quick documentation in a flexible and configurable manner. You can share your study notes online on peer-to-peer note-sharing platforms like LectureNotes.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which method is effective for you, but you should consider the facts of all the methods mentioned above before making the right choice.

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