Can you take notes? Why is it important and 5 mistakes to avoid when taking notes in college

The Importance of Note-Taking Skills For Students

Most students take notes, but why is it that only a few excel at school? Sure, individual potential plays a huge role but so does a student’s dedication and one of the clearest indicators of this dedication is note-taking.

The quality of notes and a student’s performance at school is almost always mutually inclusive. Note-taking might be one of the most important skills a person can develop while they are in college. It will help you score better and gain a deeper understanding of academic materials. Additionally, it prepares a person for their professional future where brief and concise data is sought.

The skill of making effective notes is much more than simply writing what’s taught. Haphazardly written notes usually end up in a pile on the bookshelf, never to be touched again even if it took hours to write them. Why? Because they’re confusing and sorting through different ill-placed topics is a task in itself. Here are some common mistakes that you might be making which deteriorate the quality of your notes. We’ve also added some helpful tips alongside.

Related content: 5 Reasons Why Taking Notes is Beneficial to Students

Note-taking mistake #1: Writing Everything You Hear

When you’re taking notes in class, everything the professor says might sound important. Instead of selectively writing a few points, it’s easier, hence more tempting to jot down everything word to word. What could go wrong? After all, the more information the better, and you never know, you might miss an essential point while trying to be selective, right? It sounds completely rational in theory, but it’s a huge fail in practice. Let’s see why.

The key to writing good notes is not the amount of data you add to it. What matters is the quality of information and the quantity of words you used to convey that info in writing. Good notes are brief and succinctly state what you’ve already studied. This also makes then more usable from the revision perspective. Revising huge/ long notes ends up with an information overload, often leaving you more confused than prepared.

That’s why we developed Amanote. It allows you to link your notes directly to the course materials (slides, textbook, video, etc.), so you can focus only on what’s important to note.

Listen and Then Write

If you want your school notes to be usable, there’s something called active listening that you must start doing. It’s not some legendary secret technique that toppers use, it’s simple yet powerful. First, learn to differentiate between important and filler points made by the professor. Important points are of academic importance to the topic you’re learning. These will be the points you will write in your answers during an exam. Filler points are extra tidbits of info used just to clarify a concept or to state an example. You need not add these to your notes, or a few words will do if you feel they could be useful.

Second, after listening to an important point, take a few seconds to understand and write it in your own words, in the simplest form possible.

Cut Your Sentences Short

There are many ways to do this but the easiest two are: using abbreviations and avoiding basic connectors and prepositions. Let’s get this straight, your notes will be read by you only. As long as you understand what’s written, it doesn’t matter whether they’re usable by a third person. Make personal abbreviations for frequently used words. Don’t bother with grammar and writing complete sentences. The idea should be to compress three-four lines into one.

Note-taking mistake #2: Unorganized Notes

Exams are near, but you’ve got your trusted binders complete with all the notes you could require. You open one binder and all you can see is a jumble of random topics that you will now have to spend hours sorting. Revision is exhausting as it is and now every time you finish one topic, you’ll have to spend time and energy finding the next one. What use is spending hours on making top-notch notes when you can’t even find which ones to study? Here’s how you can save your exam season time when you’ve barely got any to spare.

Number the Pages

Sounds simple but no one likes numbering every single sheet they’re going to use. However, monotonous as it may be, page numbers are extremely helpful in finding topics when you’ve got a table of contents for reference. You don’t need to number all pages in one go, just number the page you’re currently on and continue this as your notes expand. If you don’t like doing even this, you can always purchase loose numbered sheets.

Use an Index, and Tag and Consolidate Similar Topics in One Folder

For those who don’t take digital notes, an index can be a lifesaver. This is where page numbering also comes into play. You can refer to your index for any topic and find the page number it starts from. It’s also smart to not list the index according to the ascension of page numbers but according to the alphabetical order of the topics.

Use one index for one binder and try to arrange topics that are of relevance to each other, together.

Use a Note-Taking App

One of the biggest advantages of using a note-taking app made for students like Amanote is its ease of use and organization. As the notes are linked to the course materials, everything become easier and more organized. For example, you can search in both your notes and the course materials at the same time for specific information.

Note-taking mistake #3: No Space to Update Notes

After a successful note-taking spree, it’s time for revision. It’s only natural to find some extra details that you might want to add to your notes. Unlike digital notes, handwritten notes require space that should be left in advance.

Make Margins

Try to create margins on every page for when you revise and find something you might want to add. Margins are also useful to write important questions, summaries or examples.

Leave Space/ a Few Pages After Completing a Topic

Once you’ve completed a topic but left no space in the preceding pages for extra material, it is wise to leave a leaf or two for later. You will almost always find some new and valuable points to add to your notes.

Note-taking mistake #4: Unmotivated Note-Taking

If you’re writing notes just for the sake of writing notes, there’s a big chance that those notes will end up being unusable for you. It’s not because you will not use them, you might want to study but you’ll find they won’t be very useful. Unmotivated note-taking usually ends up overwhelming and further confusing a student. This is because when you mindlessly write whatever is spoken, you don’t think about how and what you’re writing. There is no organization and the notes are truthfully a mess. If they are not a mess, they might be so bland that you find it hard to concentrate. Every line looks the same and there are no points that stand out. So nothing really goes into your brain even as you read. How to tackle this problem?

Get Creative

Creativity comes from excitement. When you’re excited about studying and learning new things, you’ll automatically want to write quality material that you can use later. Using creative doodles and flowcharts can be very useful in making your notes more interesting. They also provide bites of visual information that are much easier to remember than plainly written paragraphs.

Note-taking mistake #5: Not Learning What You Write

Active listening promotes active learning. When you listen attentively, you will learn what you write. As discussed above, unmotivated note-taking wastes your time, but it also keeps you from learning while you’re in class. As it stands, classrooms provide an excellent opportunity to learn something the first time you listen. Not doing so is an opportunity and time wasted. Also, it allows the next time you study to just be a revision session.

Ask Questions

While in class, make it a point to clarify any doubts with the teacher and write those doubts in the margin of your notes. Asking questions is one of the best learning methods and noting them ensures you always remember them.

Review and Revise

Your notes are useless if you don’t review and revise them, no matter their quality. You make notes to make learning easier and to remember everything that could be asked in the exams. Don’t let your notes remain dormant on a shelf. Regularly use them for revision and update them as you go. You will notice an improvement in your performance as time goes by.


In a nutshell, no two persons can have the same style of taking notes. Everyone has their own quirks and things that help them learn better. Though there is no ‘correct way’ of writing your college notes, there are some common factors that affect the quality of notes for many students. Similarly, there are some methods that are universally applicable and help elevate the entire note-taking and learning experience. It’s not important to stick to those techniques but to modify them according to your personal need. As you inculcate these basic ideas, they’ll become second nature while writing notes. Remember to have fun and develop notes that work best for you.


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