Note-taking tactics from seven college students

For most college students, August brings us back to the daily grind of academia. We’re about to find ourselves (if we haven’t already) drowning in requirements, penny pinching for lunch, and trying not to doze off in the middle of the day. That last bit is pretty important, because God forbid we miss anything useful in class. How you record those details is up to you, but we’ve asked some people for some pointers on how to start this semester:

I assess how heavy my subjects are in terms of concepts and memorization. If a class involves more of the former than the latter (e.g., Math), I rarely take notes and instead rely on practice to understand the topics. If the reverse is true, I take notes and refer to supplementary material. This strategy allows me to focus on the most important details while leaving room to pursue other, more fun activities. – Josh Ambrosio, 20, BS Economics, University of the Philippines Diliman

 

Unlike with notebooks, you won’t have to worry about the aesthetic of your notes when writing on a spare piece of paper. You can jot everything down quickly, while still having time to actually listen to the lecture. After class, find time to review what you’ve written and organize the ideas. It seems tedious, but it sure is effective! – Ash Estrella, 19, BS Business Administration and Accountancy, University of the Philippines Diliman

 

The most important thing about note-taking is to follow a format and color code to keep everything organized. I have headers, sub-headers, bullets, and sub-bullets per topic. I keep main points either highlighted or in a different color for easy review. I make sure to indent points so that I know what topics go together. And as much as possible, I try to use all the space in the notebook by writing in two columns. – Merche Padilla, 18, BS Management Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University

 

In class, I write almost everything that’s on the board, PowerPoint, or whatever my professor says. When the prof is too fast, I also take photos of the slides or blackboard. Before exams, I try to summarize content in index cards. I also make diagrams to relate topics. These methods work because I don’t just memorize what is being taught — I provide my own understanding and explanation of the lesson. – Lizelle Cruz, 18, BS Applied Economics Major in Financial Economics and BS Marketing Management, De La Salle University Manila

 

If the professor emphasizes a concept during a lecture, that’s the only time I emphasize it in my notes. I use diagrams for processes, tables for enumerations, and illustrations for models. These lessen the effort I have to spend condensing ideas in my head and are also great space savers! Thinking of how to organize my notes also keeps me alert in class. – Jom Kimpo, 19, INTARMED Program, University of the Philippines Manila

 

When it comes to note-taking, I want to be concise and straight to the point. I use short phrases or keywords. I avoid using fancy lettering or typography in my day-to-day notes, so I use bright highlighters for key terms, main topics, and important terminologies! The colors will help me retain information better and maybe even associate certain words with certain colors. – Ervina Robles, 18, BS Biology, De La Salle University Manila

 

In my university, our note-taking is more on documenting the process of our projects. It involves a lot of photo-taking and giving a reason as to why you wanted to use this font or that layout, or why you took this photo and the meaning behind it. This entire process works for me because it tracks how an idea evolves within a period of time. – Reneé Cu, 18, BA Design Communication, LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore

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