Note-Taking Tips

Did you know that note-taking skills is the greatest predictor of success in school?

This is a suddenly a more important topic than you thought.  Note-taking is not something a person is automatically good at from the start.  It is something that we learn to do well over time.  It is also a very important skill to learn because it will help you remember information better.  It is great to hear a lecture from an instructor, but it is even better to then write that important information down or use a computer to document it.  Although, studies do show that using a pen and paper to take notes is still better than taking notes via computer or mobile device.  The reason behind this is that people can usually type faster or text faster than they can write, therefore when they take notes they tend to type everything verbatim.  People taking notes with a pen and paper cannot write as fast as the instructor can speak therefore, they tend to shorten what they transcribe and catch more of the important key terms (they are filtering what they write down as they know they cannot write everything.  Below is what you should be focusing on when taking notes:


  • Anything the instructor verbally mentions as being important
  • Anything the instructor repeats more than once
  • Main/big concepts – when you get out of your class or finish a section of reading ALWAYS ask yourself what was it about?  What was the main topic that was discussed in class today?  What subject did the reading mainly cover?  I cannot stress this enough, if you come out of class and are unable you recall what the lecture was about then you need to start paying better attention.  Also, if you find yourself unable to summarize a reading that is a good indicator that you should read it again.
  • Supporting concepts – These are typically smaller items that somehow relate to the main topic, these often come in the form of key words throughout a chapter, but bear in mind they can be in the form of ideas/concepts as well. 
  • Diagram!  I am not talking about copying down a diagram posted in a course, but making your own.  If you are a visual learner this is something you should do whenever a topic lends itself to it.  A web diagram is a great way to assess what you know about a topic.  You put the main idea/subject in the middle of the paper, circle it, then start filling up the rest of the page with supporting ideas and key terms that relate to the main topic.  Draw circles around these items and link them to the main topic by drawing lines connecting them together.  This provides a great visual aid in determining areas you might be weak on or need to familiarize yourself more with.  See example below:


Memory: Improve Your Recall

This month’s coaching topic is going to be on memory and what we can do to improve it.  How can we increase our rate of recall when it comes to studying and learning material for class?  I have posted a short video clip from YouTube about improving recall.  It introduces an interesting concept that I believe might be worth trying.  Remember, 7 – 10 seconds is key.  Be sure to check back here later in the month when I post more information and tips on this topic.


Tips for Reading Text

Each quarter students have to pay for textbooks.  It can add up to quite a bit of money depending on how many textbooks are required per course and how many courses a student is taking.  Since textbooks come at such a price, wouldn’t you want to make the most of them?  I certainly would.  I also would like to equip all students with the skills to read textbooks for optimal retention of information.  There are many different techniques and tips out there for remembering information read in textbooks, articles, or assigned readings.  Below is a webinar presented by Connie from The Reading Lab on the main Bellevue College Campus.  In this presentation she provides information on how to really learn the important aspects in textbooks.  Check it out!  Click the link below.

The Reading Lab is part of the Academic Success Center on the main Bellevue College campus.  The specialists that work in The Reading Lab can assist with many different aspects of improving reading for academic purposes.  I encourage everyone to check them out:

Do you SQ3R?

Have you ever heard of the acronym SQ3R?  or SQ4R?

It is a technique to use in order to remember what you are reading when you have assigned readings from a textbook or article, etc.  Here’s how it works:

S = Survey (read and notice important headings, titles, and graphics)

Q = Question (turn each title or heading into a question and see if you can answer it)

R = Read (each section in full trying to answer questions as you go along)

R = Recite (after each section try to remember the questions and what you read, repeat this as needed)

R = Review (once you’ve read a chapter, go back to the questions and see if you can still answer them)

R = Remember (try to remember what you read, aim to learn something new from what you read)

Below are a couple of documents that further explain the SQ3R/SQ4R method and how to best employ it:


SQ4R Study Techniques

Doodling in Class: Beneficial or Not?

Do you doodle?  You know, making shapes, lines, pictures, words, etc. in your notebook or on a scrap piece of paper.  While most of us think it might be a bad habit or something we do because we are bored, a new study has found that doodling can actually increase information retention and be a positive activity.

By no means will I encourage you to doodle in class because I will have a handful of angry instructors knocking on my office door, but I would suggest trying it while doing a listening activity of less importance.  Perhaps if you have a phone conversation with a relative or friend doodle while you are on the phone with them and afterward see how well you can recall dates, times, or specific details about the conversation.  If it seems to work for you, perhaps try it with slightly more important activities 🙂