Since the vast majority of teachers use the lecture method to impart the information to be learned in any class, one of the most important things a student can do is learn to take good notes. Learning note-taking techniques is not hard, but it does take practice to become skilled.
Keeping notes organized is vital. Nothing like writing notes on the history lecture then losing them before the test! Depending on how long the course is, or how much a teacher may talk determines the amount of paper you might need. I bought a different notebook for each college course I took. Some notebooks have sections, which work well. Just make sure that each subject has its own section. I also put dates on my notes. Make it a point to review the notes you took at the last class before going into the next class.
The most important thing to remember in taking notes is to listen. Many students spend so much time trying to get every word down (an impossible task) that they miss the gist of what the speaker is saying. Most of what is said in any lecture is extra information used to emphasize or explain the subject. Think about what the person is saying. Strive to understand what is being said and identify the theme or main points. In other words, if you had to make an outline of the subject of the lecture and leave out the less essential material, what would you write down? Sometimes after a class I would do just that, organize my notes into an outline. It saved me a lot of time later when I was reviewing for a test. If you are really worried about missing something, tape the class, with permission from the teacher or professor or speaker.
Keep practicing your listening and you will soon learn to sort out explanatory phrases, examples of the idea being promoted and definitions of words used. You need not bother to write any of these down unless you don’t know what they mean and need to look them up.
Next, note anything that is repeated. If it is repeated more than once or twice, put a big star by it. Anything a teacher repeats, he/she considers important and it will almost always turn up of a test. They may not always say it the same way, either. Again, listen! Always write down anything that is written on the blackboard. If the teacher takes the time to write it, you’d better remember it!
If the teacher is referring to a text, ask the page number, if it hasn’t already been given. Then follow the print and underline, highlight and make notes in the margin., If the book doesn’t belong to you note on a paper the page number and pretend you are highlighting, etc., so you can look back at it later. Most of the important information in books is usually in the first and/or last sentence of each paragraph and the first and last paragraph of each section. Concentrate on those. The same thing is generally true of a lecture, too. Teachers usually speak from outlines and tend to emphasize at the beginning and end of each lecture.
Summing it all up: Organize your notes for quick location and reference.
Listen more than write. Look for the “meat” of what is said. Tape recordings can be helpful here.
Identify what is repeated or written and note it. Summarize what you’ve got. Ace that course!