Making Notes

Lectures and note-taking go hand in hand. Research has shown that note-taking helps in the process of learning. Read on to find out more.

Information presented in lectures often contains central concepts of the course. Besides that, it is also at lectures where lecturers reveal information that may be important for tests or exams.

Students often give the excuse that if a point is so important, they would be able to remember, without the need for notes. Research, however, has shown that generally an individual can only remember 50 percent of what he hears and out of that, 20 percent to 30 percent is incorrect. It is thus important for a student wishing to excel, to take down notes during lectures and know how to use them.

The process

Taking notes during lectures can often be a daunting and a mildly stressful task. Getting organised is probably the best way to deal with the rush of incoming information. Here are 3 foolproof stages of good note-taking:


Before going to lectures, it is good to refresh your memory with what you were taught during the last lecture. This will help you remember what was covered and also understand new information presented in subsequent lectures.


It is important to not let any distractions disrupt your attention while your lecturer is talking. Keep a lookout for signal statements and clues that indicate an important point to take note of.

Some of the more common clues are:

  • Material written on a whiteboard or slides

  • Repetition

  • Emphasis

  • Sentences that usually begin with 'Please remember...', 'The most important point is...', among others

  • Reviews given at the start of a lecture

  • Summaries given at the end of a lecture


Rewriting your notes after class helps you reaffirm what you have learnt in class. It will also help in making your notes more complete as you change the abbreviated words and shortened sentences written in a rush in class, to whole words and longer and detailed sentences.

Remember, having good lecture notes will help you to be better prepared for tests and exams.

Note-making tips

  1. Don't write down everything that you read or hear. Be alert and attentive to the main points

  2. Notes should consist of key words or very short sentences

  3. Take accurate notes. You should, where possible, use your own words without changing its meaning

  4. Take notes that will be of real value to you when you look over them at a later date

  5. Form a standard punctuation and abbreviation method and stick to it, so as to ensure that what you write makes sense to you

  6. Keep your notes short and to the point

  7. Don't worry about missing a point

  8. Keep notes in order and use a standard paper size