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A Breakdown of Note-Taking: 5 Tips All Students Should Know

28 Sep

A Breakdown of Note-Taking: 5 Tips All Students Should Know

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Watching a video in which a teacher at an onsite schools explains the importance of Napoleon’s foreign policies in the context of European history can make one wonder, “how do I know what is important? It all sounds boring, I’d rather not be here at all”. No matter how creative or entertaining the teacher is, it is difficult to get excited about centuries-old events that have no immediate effect on the present. As a result, the facts become meshed with the “fluff” of the stories, making it almost impossible for the intimidated student to understand and process.

Note-taking is about a lot more than just writing down what is important; it is an art form that reveals itself through practice… and some imagination.

At CMA-SAS online school, even though it's helpful to be able to rewatch lessons and have 1:1 help, taking down effective notes is critical. 

Breaking Down the Art of Note Taking:

Read/listen actively 

  • When reading the textbook, it is important not to just read the words on the page, but to analyze each sentence and paragraph (not extensively, of course). Use a highlighter or colored pen to mark which sentences are more important. In the beginning, use common sense: what sounds important? With practice, this step becomes second nature.
  • Of course, when it comes to listening to a lecture, this step is a bit more difficult; after all, you can’t go back and re-listen to the last sentence. However, most teachers tend to emphasize what needs to be remembered, which will make note-taking somewhat less stressful. Just keep in mind: as with everything else, proficiency comes with practice.


  • After a sentence/paragraph has been analyzed, it is not necessary to commit the exact words to memory. Jot down the overall meaning or idea on the side of the page; when learning material, an understanding of the concepts and ideas is needed before the details can be processed successfully.

Stay organized

  • There are many different methods of note-taking that involve the varied uses of bullets, numbers, and symbols. Find a system that makes sense and stick to it. Changing organizational plans will only cause confusion and stress when it becomes time to study.
  • For taking notes on paper, this may include the use of highlighters and different colored pens.
  • When taking notes on the computer, the use of a note-taking software, such as Evernote, makes the process easier to manage.

Use your quirks to your advantage

  • There are 3 major types of learners: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
  • Auditory learners process information better when it is presented through sound. For example, lectures are great platforms for auditory learners, as merely listening to the information is a form of engagement for the brain.
  • Visual learners tend to be more comfortable when the information is presented in a visual display, such as PowerPoints and videos.
  • Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on activities, such as labs and projects.
  • If one knows what type of learner one is, the process of note-taking can become more personalized towards the student.
  • For example, a visual learner may use different colored pens to take down different types of information and symbols to dictate categories.

The process of note-taking is much less complex than students perceive it to be. Although it seems complicated and time consuming, the key to mastering it is practice. And, of course, some creativity.