The Ultimate Guide To Effective Note Taking

We all go through this period of stress and anxiety before tests and exams and we wish we had made better notes, or just made any notes at all. Read on and find out what I do to make neat, attractive and effective notes so you never have to worry about having to read a 300 page textbook a night before the exam!

Guide to note taking

1. Use a colored pen along with your preferred pencil or blue/black pen. When I say a colored pen, I mean A colored pen. A single color. Green, pink, orange… anything bright. When you color-code a specific subject or maybe even a chapter, it’s easier for the human brain to recall this information, especially in the case of visual learners. Furthermore, the use of just one color works wonders in keeping the notes simple and tidy, making you WANT to read these notes.

2. Use points, sub-points and mind maps. When I had started making notes, I would unknowingly paraphrase sentences from my textbook. Take extra care and do not do that: it’s time wasted and ink lost. Instead, read, understand and summarize YOUR UNDERSTANDING of the text into points of fewer than eight words. Along with this, draw mind maps and extend arrows to connect blocks and ideas. This will tie the whole chapter together and you won’t be stressing about not being able to connect different chapters or thoughts or illustrations.

3. Use symbols and abbreviations wherever possible. These are YOUR notes. They’re for you and by you. Use abbreviations and symbols to make your notes concise. Following from short notes comes the ability to quickly memorize notes, and that’s the entire purpose of note taking. When the notes are to-the-point, recalling is easier too – less time spent trying to rack your brain while writing your paper. Additionally, try using mnemonics when there is a list of things to memorize. For example, the MRS. GREN mnemonic to remember the seven characteristics of living organisms (Movement, Reproduction, Sensitivity, Growth, Respiration, Excretion, Nutrition). PS: I am not studying science at present. This is something I was taught six years ago and I still remember it – evidently, a VERY effective method.

4. Write page numbers. Well, I know it may not seem logical to everyone to write page numbers while taking notes and I don’t recommend it if you’re halfway through your notebook, but if you’re just about to start a fresh notebook, write page numbers at the bottom of each page. This is something I recently started doing and I’m loving it. Not only did this allow me to create an index at the first page of my notebook where I can write page numbers for each topic I’ve made notes on, but it also allows me to refer back to something written before. For example, if I’m solving sums a week after they were taught, I know that if I refer to page #, I can find any concepts or formulas I may need for the same.

This is an example of an index you can make for a subject.

5. Don’t be afraid of being too neat. You may worry that if you use a ruler to make boxes and switch pens every two minutes, it may take too long to write notes. But that’s okay. When you put effort into your notes, you’ll WANT to read them. When your notes are bright and beautiful, you’ll WANT to read them. As you go on writing such notes, you’ll get the hang of it and will be able to make tidy, colorful notes even while the teacher talks!


These are my top five note taking tips. I hope they help you and motivate you to study! Comment below if you have any tips to share with me! Happy note taking!

love,

Shanaya