How to Properly Take Lecture Notes

To all the new [or returning] collegiates, WELCOME [BACK] TO ODU! You will love the school and going to classes once you’re adjusted and making cool friends! Except you might be really scared on how to properly take notes from lectures, but don’t worry! Believe it or not, some new collegiates don’t know how to properly take notes the way that they learned note-taking from high school. OR maybe you’re trying out new ways to memorize and note-take without torturing yourself with notes. Here’s how you can properly take lecture notes that you’ll be able to study from!

Tips to Keep in Mind:


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  • Everyone has their own way of studying! You might not find this advice article helpful, but some other collegiates potentially will. You have to think about what kind of a learner are you. Hands-on? Visual? Auditory? That way, you’ll be able to learn what are your strengths and weaknesses in learning.

    • There will be lectures/classes where you don’t have to take notes at all because it all depends on how you’re able to memorize the knowledge.

  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE EVERYTHING. It won’t do you any good if you write every inch of the Powerpoint. Not only will your hand fall off, but you’re not going to remember anything from the lecture. Instead, paraphrase everything in your own words if you can! You should be able to find the notes via online, Blackboard or even a classmate(s).

  • Remain organized with your notes. This is a no-brainer tip, but you will get to a point during the semester of where you don’t care where your notes ends up. It’s important to remember to organize everything every other day.

    • A good suggestion would be to buy (or someone can be kind enough to donate to you!) notebooks w/ folder pockets or binders. Both should NOT cost above one to two dollars EACH to get at the store.

  • Get creative with your notes! Click here for some creative ideas on note-taking. Pinterest is a nice website to get inspired by easily. You don’t have to be too elaborate on your notes; write notes just enough for you to understand and to grab your attention.  

  • It also depends on the class AND the professor. There are some classes where you don’t need to write notes down (lower division classes such as UNIV101, UNIV150 and so forth) because they aren’t too challenging. There will also be some professors or instructors that are laid-back with textbooks and school supply suggestions. Overall, be prepared for classes and what they would like to have from you.


How to Take Notes without Ripping Your Hair Out in Class:

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  • Mathematics/Statistics Lectures: Let’s be real, you will HATE math in college because you will NOT be allowed to have any calculators. You would usually learn visually and by memorization in anything relating to math and statistics. Basically, you could learn from examples and mistakes whether than just solely by explanation on how to solve problems. That’s why you will NEED to go to tutoring or grab a study buddy with you in order for you to fully understand.

    • Supply suggestion: one subject notebook w/ folder pocket and a bunch of mechanical pencils.

    • My suggestion is to write a ‘braindump’ of all formulas and mathematical equations you have learned. The ‘braindump’ can behind the front of the notebook or the first page.


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  • English/Humanities Lectures: Depending on your professors, English will probably be the most non-challenging classes (when I say non-challenging, take that with a grain of salt) because of how laidback and cool they are. However, in the humanities, you might learn auditory as to how the professor is explaining the lecture to the class. You should write some terminology down. If she/he says something you’ve never heard of AT ALL, then write it in the middle of your notes or on the side. It could be on the test!    

    • Supply suggestion: one subject notebook w/ folder pocket, colored pens and sticky notes (for possible side notes!)


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  • History/Social Science Lectures: Whether if it would be reading a boring textbook or looking at a PowerPoint about World War II or mental disorders, you must learn by reading and auditory. By the rule of thumb, paraphrase in your words! Shorten the notes, color/highlight the main points or simply use some of your own interpretations! Don’t forget vocabularies, they are important.

    • Supply suggestion: one subject notebook w/ folder pocket, colored pens and sticky notes.



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  • Science Lectures: You would usually have to learn in all aspects in order to be successful in science. Usually science classes have lectures AND lab courses that comes with it, so you would have to learn visually and hands-on. Always grab a study buddy with you and when in doubt, go to tutoring!

    • Supply suggestion: one inch binder w/ folder (for lab courses), one subject notebook (for lecture), lab notebook (if required by professor), colored pens, mechanical pencils and index cards.

Taking notes is not as hard as you think! It really is all about how you’re able to memorize and the kind of learner you are. You are going to have weaknesses and strengths in when taking notes. Everyone learns and studies one way or another, so it’s best to find your category into how you learn. That’s what college is all about anyway, learning and you will love every second of it. Have fun note-taking!