Take Notes Like A Pro

TradeUp Blog
3 min readFeb 10, 2021


Do you sometimes struggle to determine what to write down during lectures? Studies suggest that students who learn and practice effective note taking are more likely to succeed in school. This article breaks note-taking down into clear, actionable steps that anyone can try. Check them out!

Identify how you will take notes and stick to that plan

Before your first day of school consider where you plan to record notes from lectures, group projects, homework assignments and the like. If you like writing by hand — pick a notebook. If you prefer to type on a computer — set up a file on your desktop. The more intentional you are about where you choose to record notes the easier it will be for you to use those notes. Try to avoid writing things down in multiple places — this will only make your notes difficult to find.

Write down key words and concepts instead of full sentences

Taking effective notes does not involve writing down every word the instructor says. Instead, note taking requires critical thinking — how can you abbreviate what the instructor is telling you in a way that makes sense to you? Listen for key words and concepts that keep coming up in class and write them down. The more you practice the faster you can develop a note-taking system that works for you. A great way to determine what is and is not a keyword or key concept is to refer to the course syllabus. A syllabus outlines the core learning objectives of the course. In other words, it’s a great way to refocus your attention so you can capture what matters most.

Listen for verbal cues from the instructor

Instructors often signal to students that certain pieces of information are particularly useful. Keep your ears perked so you hear when the instructor is signaling that you should write something down. Here are common phrases to watch out for:

Topic Signals: At the start of a lesson instructors typically identify (1) what the lecture topic is (2) how the lecture is structured. Try to write those down, be sure to pick a clean page to work off of.

Transition Signals: A standard part of any lecture is ‘transitioning’ (moving on) to a new section. Transition signals matter because there is a difference between listening and reading. When you read you can easily see where one section ends and another begins. This is not the case for when you listen.

Assessment Signals: If your instructor ever says something like “this will be on the test” that is a cue for you to take notes on the discussion. If you miss something, feel free to raise your hand to ask the instructor to repeat the information. Put a star or exclamation point around the information that you know will be on a test so you can prioritize it when you study.

It might seem overly simple but learning and practicing effective note-taking is a tried and tested approach to succeeding in school. Attending a training program can be overwhelming and we are confident that you have what it takes to succeed — especially if you try these note taking tips and tricks!