The Best Note-Taking Methods (2023)

The Best Note-Taking Methods (1)

For college students & serious note-takers

Note-taking is one of the most important activities for students. There are a variety of reasons for it but we only want to highlight the most important one here: Taking notes will help you recall information that would otherwise be lost. But taking notes the right way isn’t as easy as it sounds. It isn’t simply about jotting down everything that you hear. Taking notes is about summarising core concepts as precisely as possible in your own words.
One thing that most successful students have in common is that they use a specific note-taking method. A note-taking method will help you to prepare before the lecture and to review key concepts after a class. It will help you to stay focused during the lecture to pay attention and actively participate. It will help you to organise your notes properly so that you don’t have to worry about losing the overview once you get back to them to prepare for an exam. In this article, we give an overview of the best note-taking methods for college students, on how to apply each and when you should (or shouldn’t) use one.
(Of course, this guide will also come in handy if you’re not a college student but want to improve the way you take your notes!)
Let’s dive in.
The Outline method is one of the best and most popular note-taking methods for college students. It lets you organize your notes in a structured form, helping you save a lot of time for further reviewing and editing. As the name suggests, this method requires you to structure your notes in form of an outline by using bullet points to represent different topics and their subtopics. Start writing main topics on the far left of the page and add related subtopic in bullet points below using indents.
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(Video) 5 great note taking methods no one talks about

When should you use this note-taking method

  • Highlights the key points of the lecture in a logical way
  • Ease of use allows the students to focus
  • Reduces the reviewing and editing time
  • Gives a proper and clean structure to your notes
  • Not suitable for subjects like chemistry and math that comprise of formulas and charts
  • Doesn’t work well if the attended lecture doesn’t follow a certain structure
We’ve written about the Cornell Method in one of our previous blog articles. It is a unique note-taking method that finds its application in a variety of situations. What differentiates it from other methods is the page layout. The page is divided into three or four sections starting from one row at the top for title and date (optional) and one at the bottom along with two columns in the center. 30% of width should be kept in the left column while the remaining 70% for the right column.
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All notes from the class go into the main note-taking column. The smaller column on the left side is for comments, questions or hints about the actual notes. After the lecture, you should take a moment to summarise the main ideas of the page in the section at the bottom which will speed up your reviewing and studying process immensely. The best part is that many people already remember and digest the information while they write a summary like this.

When should you use this note-taking method

The Cornell method is ideal for all types of lectures or even meetings.
(Video) How to Take Notes | Science-Based Strategies to Earn Perfect Grades
  • A quicker way to take, review, and organize your notes
  • Summarizes all the information in a systematic manner
  • Helps in effective learning as it enables to absorb information in a shorter time
  • Helps you to extract main ideas
  • Cuts down time for reviewing
  • Pages need to be prepared before a lecture
  • Requires some time for reviewing and summarising the key concepts
This method might be still widely unknown but gains increasing popularity. The term “Boxing Method” has been coined by one of our users, who has written about how she uses the method in a previous article on the GoodNotes blog. All notes that are related to each other are grouped together in a box. A dedicated box is assigned for each section of notes which cuts down the time needed for reading and reviewing.
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Digital note-taking apps for the iPad (like GoodNotes) are especially helpful for this method because content on the page can be reordered or resized subsequently. That way, you can just write down notes as you would normally do and then reorder them afterward to assign them to particular boxes. Digital note-taking also allows you to zoom in on the page, which helps to focus on one topic at a time during the review.
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When should you use this note-taking method

This method works best if you have a class/session that is split into different sections that are still related in a sense.
  • Segregates and organizes your notes in the form of boxes
  • Let’s you focus on one box at a time while reading
  • Help you memorize the relation between notes in a visual way
  • Perfect for people that take notes on an iPad
(Video) How to Take Notes in Class: The 5 Best Methods - College Info Geek
  • Not suitable for every lecture type
  • Doesn’t work well if no overall topics can be assigned to a group of notes
  • Requires additional time to group the notes in the end or during the lecture
It is an ideal method for notes that involve a lot of information in theform of facts and statistics, that need to be learned by heart. The information will be organized in several columns, similar to a table or spreadsheet. Each column represents a unique category which makes the rows easily comparable. A great example of the charting method would be a summary of this article:
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When should you use this note-taking method

This is also one of the most-effective note-taking methods for college students when it comes to jotting down heavy content which includes stats and other information. It also works great when you want to cut down on the amount of time you spend on editing and reviewing during test time. We suggest using the method when you need to memorize a lot of information but don’t recommend to apply it during classes or lectures. Creating charts with the charting methods takes time. It makes sense to use this method when summarising whole lectures as a preparation for exams or during intensive study sessions.
  • information is clearly structured
  • fantastic for reviewing
  • notes are easily comparable
  • a lot of information can be memorized rather quickly
  • Very time-consuming method
  • Barely makes sense to apply this method in a lecture/class where the content isn’t clear beforehand
  • doesn’t work for information that can’t easily be categorized
When the lecture content is intense, the mapping method works best. It helps organize your notes by dividing them into branches, enabling you to establish relationships between the topics. Start with writing the main topic at the top of the map. Keep dividing it into subtopics on the left and right as you go down.
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(Video) How to study efficiently: The Cornell Notes Method

When should you use this note-taking method

This technique works best when the lecture content is heavy and you need to organize it in a structured and easy form. It can also be used when you have no idea about the content of the lecture to be presented.
  • Visually appealing
  • Can be used for noting down detailed information but in a concise form
  • Allows easy editing of the notes
  • While mapping your notes, you might run out of space on a single page
  • Can be confusing if the information is wrongly placed while taking notes
Join the new GoodNotes Community, a notes-sharing platform where you can explore relevant study notes from students all over the world.
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Curious about the app featured in this article?

GoodNotes is one of the most popular note-taking apps for handwritten notes on the iPad — especially amongst students. With GoodNotes you can:
  • Take handwritten notes and search them afterwards
  • Annotate your PDF or PowerPoint lecture slides or articles
  • Easily organize your notes into notebooks, folders, and keep everything synced across your iPad, Mac, and iPhone


What is the most effective note taking method? ›

The outline method is one of the most intuitive and simplest ways to take notes. As the name suggests, the outline method turns notes into a hierarchy of information, providing a logical flow of content on the page and keeping it highly organized. With the outline method, you can take notes by hand or digitally.

What are the 4 methods of note taking? ›

Use the four primary methods of note taking: lists, outlines, concept maps, and the Cornell method.

Is the Cornell method effective? ›

No single method suits all students. However, many successful students and business people have found that the Cornell note taking system is very effective for lectures or reading that is organized around clearly defined topics, subtopics, and supporting details.

What are the 3 types of note-taking? ›

Well, here are 3 different note-taking styles: outline, visual, or Cornell. Outline and visual notes are quick up-front, but require more work after class to make them useful. Cornell notes take the most work up-front, but are the most useful later on.

What are the 6 types of note-taking? ›

These particular methods are some of the more popular methods for taking notes.
  • The Outline Method. This method is used for simplicity and is one of the easiest methods of taking notes. ...
  • The Cornell Method. ...
  • Mind Mapping Method. ...
  • Flow Notes Method. ...
  • The Sentence Method. ...
  • Charting Method. ...
  • Writing on Slides.

What are some effective note making skills? ›

Note making explained
  • stay active and engaged during your lectures, reading and revision.
  • understand what you are learning and clarify your thinking.
  • be selective and identify key ideas.
  • remember the material.
  • organise your ideas and make connections.
  • plan and structure written assignments.
  • review and revise before exams.

How do you take notes quickly and effectively? ›

You must limit what you write and just write down the most important ideas. This is when you need to paraphrase. Put your teacher's comments into your own words. Writing down fewer words allows you to take faster notes and keep up with the lecture.

What are note-making methods? ›

Methods of Note-taking:
  • The Outlining Method.
  • The Mapping Method.
  • The Sentence Method.
  • The Cornell Method.
  • The Charting Method.

How many methods are of note-making? ›

Our note-making techniques tutorial goes into more detail with examples of many different techniques, but here's three common ones: the linear format, pattern format and the three-column approach.

Why Cornell method is better? ›

Why should I use the Cornell method? The Cornell method forces you to think critically about the key concepts from each lesson and to explain those items in detail, making it more likely that you will remember them later.

What are the disadvantages of Cornell Notes? ›

Disadvantages Page 2 • A disadvantage of the Cornell method is that the notes section can appear to be disorganized. However, you can combine different methods of note-taking to assist you in making meaningful notes. The Cornell method is most effective for note-taking both during and after lecture.

What is the benefit of Cornell Notes? ›

The Cornell method of notetaking offers several advantages. It results in more organized notes. It allows students to quickly and identify key words and key concepts from a lecture. The notes can easily be used as a study guide for exam preparation.

What is style of a note taker answer? ›

Answer: Option (B) compressed is a style of note taker. Explanation: Outlines and visual notes can be made quickly in preparation, but they will require more effort after class to be effective.


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