How to Take Notes in Class

The notes that you take are only as useful as the reviews you make.

3 Theories of Note taking

  • Theory #1. Record everything you can.
    This works okay if you are fast and the teacher is slow.
  • Theory #2. Record whatever is written down on the board.
    This works okay if the teacher writes down the main points on the board.
  • Theory #3. Record what you think is best.
    This works well if you know what you're doing. It helps if you ask the teacher what will be covered next time. Then spend 3 minutes previewing before lecture.

The Cornell system

Use an 8½" x 11" notebook. Divide each page in two. Take notes on the right. Then as soon after class as possible, summarize main points on the left. Do not rewrite notes. It takes too much time. Do it right the first time.

The value of note-taking is directly related to how soon and how often you review.

From How to Be a Successful Student, Donald Martin, c 1988.

Academic Resource Center Hours

Fall & Spring semesters:
Monday–Thursday,
8:30 am–7 pm
Friday, 8:30 am–4:30 pm

Summer term:
Monday, Thursday, & Friday.
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Tuesday - Wednesday
8:30 am - 7 pm

Academic Resource Center


40 Loretto Hall
470 E. Lockwood Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63119
314-246-7620