What To Write Down During A Class Lecture

Your professor says an awful lot of things during class. You can't possibly write it all down, nor should you. To take the best notes (and ace your exams), pay attention to your professor's cues — conscious and subconscious.

Photo by Columbia Admissions.

Part of a great guide on note-taking strategies by Brett and Kate McKay on The Art of Manliness, these are the tell-tale signs that you should be writing down what your professor is saying:

  • Anytime the professor says, "You need to know this" or "This will be on the test." Duh.
  • Anytime the professor repeats himself.
  • Anything the professor writes on the board or includes in a PowerPoint slide.
  • Anything the professor repeats very slowly so that it can be taken down word for word.
  • If your professor starts talking more quickly, or loudly, or with more emphasis.
  • Watch for language that shows relationships between ideas. These sorts of points are often where professors get their exam questions from:
    • first, second, third
    • especially, most significant, most important
    • however, on the other hand
    • because, so, therefore, consequently

Another great tip is to write down any examples or hypotheticals the professor offers, because you'll probably see a similar one on your final, especially if you're taking maths or science classes or are in law school. Examples are also key in computer science/programming classes.

Sometimes, depending on the professor, paying attention is the hardest part. But keep your ears perked for these keywords and points and you might find yourself with more effective notes.

Write This Down: Note-Taking Strategies for Academic Success [The Art of Manliness]


    If it's included in the PowerPoint presentation there isn't really any point writing it down, as you'll more than likely have the ability to download the presentation after the lecture (if not before, as most seem to do, in my degree anyway).

    Note taking plus digital voice recorder works well for me

    Finished my degree years ago - almost 10 in fact. Back then we could obtain the recordings of the lecture - in my later years we could even download them from the internet.

    Didn't take notes very often that's for sure.

    have you been to uni? EVERYTHING is in the powerpoint. That's like saying 'write down EVERYTHING'.

    This becomes a bit of a you're studying some sort of maths/science/engineering degree, and your lecturer barely speaks any English and uses all non-metric units...

    weak. idiot's guide to life

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