University tips

How to take great lecture notes

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Lectures can be pretty daunting when you first get to university. They are quite different from school classes! It is important to learn how to take great lecture notes, so that you have the key information to use while studying!


Firstly, you will need some supplies.

You have two main choices when it comes to taking notes in lectures. You can either use an electronic device, or a good old fashioned pen and paper.

There are pros and cons to both, so this is up to you to decide. Experiment with which works best for you, and go with whichever one is most efficient!


*TOP TIP* If you are using a pen and paper, make sure to colour co-ordinate your subjects so that you keep everything organised! Buying different coloured notebooks can be great for this..!

Colourful Oxford jotters


Click on the image to check these out for yourself!

The importance of seating arrangements

Where you decide to sit in a lecture can make or break your notetaking. Too far, and you may not be able to hear the lecturer. Too close and you might be craning your neck to see the board.

I find that sitting about 15 rows back from the front of the room is a great place to plant yourself for the duration of the lecture. This gives you a perfect view of the board, as well as being able to hear what the lecturer is saying!


*TOP TIP* If you are serious about taking notes but you get easily distracted, make sure you are sitting away from distractions! This includes sitting next to noisy friends! I promise you will have time for a coffee and a joke around during the break, or on the way to your next class!



This is one tip that I wish I had learned sooner!

Sometimes lecturer’s have a habit of whittling through information so fast that you wonder if they even took a breath. So, no matter how good you are at note-taking, there may be times where you just cannot keep up with the lecturers pace. Which is okay! One way to combat this is by using abbreviations and symbols.

You probably know a few already, such as; aka, etc, and b4.

Check out this list of abbreviations, which could help you with shortening your note taking during lectures, and help to ensure you capture as much information as possible!

University note takng abbreviations! Because = B/C Continue = cont Without = w/o Up = Upward arrow Down = Downward arrow More than = > Less than = < For Example = e.g As soon as possible = ASAP Versus = vs Someone = s/o Therefore = 3 dots in triangle At = @


Here is a table I wrote out of examples of abbreviations and symbols! See which ones you can invent that could help you!

*TOP TIP* Don’t be frightened to ask the lecturer to repeat themselves, go back to a previous slide, or clarify information!


Listen! Again and again!

Have you ever been completing course work and wished that you could hear a lecture again? Some universities offer a service where you can replay lectures, so find out whether that is something available to you! If not, don’t panic!

Record your lectures!

Before recording your lectures I advise that you ask each of your lecturers permission, to make sure they are okay with this – generally, they are!

Recording Devices

Again, you have a few options of how to record your lectures. You could use your phone recorder, if it is of good quality and you sit close enough to the front. Or, you can buy yourself a professional lecture recorder. I used a recorder, because that is what worked for me. But if your phone has the capabilities, try it out!

Recording device, which can easily fit in a pocket.


Click the image above to see for yourself a device similar to one that I often used!

Share the load!

Get to know the people in your class, and see if you can collaborate. Find some willing participants who all use laptops, and share a Google Doc!

This method is super helpful for taking great lecture notes, as it increases the chances of the most amount of information being noted down!

*TOP TIP* This can also be super helpful for learning other people’s ideas and opinions on the subject, and create new lines of discourse!

Sharing is caring spongebob rainbow meme


Focus in on the important stuff! This helps to take great lecture notes!

When taking notes in lectures, you don’t need to write down every single word that the professor says! Try to focus on key concepts and ideas!

Table of A vs B. One side is a convoluted way of writing lecture notes, including the lecturer saying 'Hello class, today I am going to talk about how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of theell.' Opposite is a table which simple reads instead, 'mitochondria = powerhouse of cell' This illustration shows the simpler way of note taking which is more effective.

This is quite an extreme example, but it conveys the point perfectly! This difference may not seem like a big deal at first. However, the time saved by using abbreviations and key points means more time for being present in the lecture and understanding key concepts!


*TOP TIP* You will always have a textbook and/or resources to look back on to explain the concepts. This will also be a part of your reading. So don’t stress by trying to write down absolutely everything at once. You could get overwhelmed and disengage with the lecture. Which is the opposite of what you want!


Stay organised with your studies!

As well as great note-taking, you need to stay organised when it comes to your workload! We have another article crammed full of tips for organisation at university, if you would like to check that out here!

I Planned Out Our Whole Day - Elf GIF - WillFerrell Elf BuddyTheElf GIFs


Thanks for reading these tips on taking great lecture notes!

Hopefully you have learned some great tips on how to take great notes in lectures!

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