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Listening and Note-taking

Good listening is not a passive thing—it requires effort.

Chemistry prof before class: See yourself succeeding

Do you want to make the time you spend listening to lectures more productive? Here are some tips to follow. Remember, like all learning strategies, they will only work if you do!


Parts of a Lecture


The opening remarks set the tone of the lecture and may review previous material that has been covered.


This is the sentence or statement that that gives you the topic for the lecture.


This is the largest part of the lecture. It demands your most active listening. There are usually five or six main points to be made with discussion and clarification for each.


There is a tendency to tune out this part of the lecture, but good listeners realize that it is the means to check understanding of what the lecture was about.


Listening Tips

Before the Lecture Be Prepared

  • male student listeningSit where you can hear and see clearly, preferably toward the front.

  • Be ready to participate and work at listening attentively.

  • Keep all notes and handouts in one binder or have class-specific folders. Information will be much easier to locate.

  • Prepare ahead of time. Read assigned materials, reread previous notes.

  • Think ahead. Try to anticipate what is going to be covered in class.

During the Lecture Engage in Active Listening

  • Listen for what is being said, not how it is being said.

  • Listen for ways to relate ideas to previous lecture, to the textbook, and to previous experiences.

  • Listen for transitions and cues during the lecture, as well as repetition of important points.

  • Listen for and write down all names, dates, formulas, definitions, and key examples and all information written on the board.

  • If you are bored, review previous class notes. At least you will remain focused on the subject.

After the Lecture

  • Skim new notes immediately after class and again before you go to bed. This step will greatly increase retention.

  • Try to find the answers to questions you have noted or new questions that arise.

  • Try to restate what was said in your own words. If you can't, go back and review until you can because the information is not yet stored in memory.


Note-taking Tips

Female student taking notes

1. Above all else, prepare for each lecture hour.

  • Read the assigned material carefully before class.
  • Skim or survey the chapter right before the lecture.
  • Be seated before the instructor begins lecturing. During this time, open your notebook and review your last notes.
  • Be mentally ready to listen, eager and demanding to learn something from the lecture. It is up to you and no one else.

2. Do not skip classes.

  • While you may borrow notes from a classmate, there is much that is covered in class that will be missed. Skipping class puts you at a great disadvantage.

3. Get the names and phone numbers of at least two other students in class.

  • Select students who take good notes and who use the same note-taking style as you do.
  • Contact them if you have missed any classes to get notes and assignments.

4. Follow basic note-taking format.

  • Start each lecture on a new page.

  • Always begin with the date and lecture topic at the beginning of your notes.

  • Write down all names, dates, formulas, definitions, and key examples and all information written on the board.

  • If you miss something, leave blank spaces to fill in additional information later.

  • Put question marks next to any information that is not clear so you can ask the professor, a classmate, or a tutor for clarification later.

  • Use as much space as you need. Don't try to cram everything onto one page or squeeze a diagram into one corner of the page.

5. Develop efficient note-taking skills.

  • If you have prepared, you will know what you need to get down in your notes.

  • Knowing effective outlining, note-taking, or mapping techniques will be of great benefit to you. Learning these skills allows you to spend your mental effort continually anticipating what the instructor is going to say next.

  • During the lecture hour, take time to summarize to yourself what the instructor has said. If there is something you don't understand, ask your professor for clarification.

6. Create your own shorthand.

  • The use of abbreviations, symbols, pictures, and diagrams is especially helpful.
  • Refer to the list of symbols for building note-taking speed. A list of common symbols can be accessed by clicking the following link. A new window will open.

Note taking Symbols

mind map7. Decide which note-taking format works the best for you.

  • Make yourself aware of the various formats. Refer to the link below for note-taking options.

  • Refer to the use of Note Cards for the most efficient study and recitation format.

  • Experiment with each approach until you find the one that fits your learning style.

  • Bring the necessary materials for the note-taking style you decide to use, e.g., Cornell notepaper, multicolor pen, blank paper, etc.

  • Consistently use the format you select . The more you practice, the better and faster you will become.

8. Review your notes that same day.

  • Review within 20 minutes after class for a significant increase in memory of the information covered.
  • While the material is still fresh in your mind, make additional notes. Fill in the gaps you remember but did not have time to write down.
  • Fill out your notes as needed, using complete sentences and/or translating your scribbles into legible writing.
  • Since immediate review of lecture material right after class increases your retention significantly, keep this in mind when you schedule your classes. Allow a break between each course to allow for this review.

Summary of key points: Note-taking Tips via youtube

Go to Listening and Note-taking: Part 2


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This site was created and is maintained by Barbara J. Speidel, SWC Academic Success Center Coordinator. @ Barbara J. Speidel

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