5 of the Most ~Efficient~ Note-Taking Methods for College Students

by Malcolm Angoya   |  Feb 17, 2023
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Whether you aren’t recording your notes fast enough or having difficulty absorbing your lectures, note-taking is an essential skill in improving your efficiency. Not only can this skill help you do better on your exams, it's also a great confidence booster when you're studying and trying to remember heavy study materials.

Note-taking forces you to focus in class and engage with the topic, rather than just listening in on the lecture. With a little effort, you can organize your note-taking processes to set yourself up for greater success. So if you feel like your note-taking skills are getting rusty, or if you’re simply trying to up your grades, here are some note-taking methods to help you boost your productivity:

5 Easy Note-Taking Methods To Boost Your Productivity

  • The Outline Method

This method is one of the easiest methods of taking notes, simply because anyone can pick up this method and use it without issues. 

To use this method, select four or five key points that are going to be covered in a specific lesson. Under those key points, you write more in-depth sub-points based on what is being discussed on those topics. If you convert those points into questions, this can be an effective way to quiz yourself later.

It’s a well-organized system if it’s done right. Use this format when there is enough time in the lecture to think about and make organizational decisions when they are needed. This format can be most effective when your note-taking skills are sharp and you can handle the outlining regardless of the lecture speed.


  • The Mapping Method

This method works best for subjects that have interlocking topics or complex ideas. It serves as a visual aid for how every topic is related to one another, allowing you to go into detail on particular ideas or topics.

If you opt for this method, you can start off writing only the general ideas or topics. Then during the lecture, you can add sub-concepts to those branches—things like dates, supporting facts, and concepts that you see between people and events.

The mapping method is best suitable for subjects or lectures where the content is well-organized, detailed, and targets a specific concept. Mapping your notes is especially useful if the concept has many categories and subcategories that are all directly or indirectly linked to the main concept.

  • The Flow-Based Method

This low-stress method is designed for those who want to maximize active learning in the classroom and save time in reviewing. It shares a lot of similarities with the Mapping Method, except this approach requires less organization, hierarchy, or rules.

Start by only writing out only the major ideas. When you add on the facts, dates, and details, make sure to reduce them to a few words and not lengthy paragraphs. Once you get an idea written down, your next step is drawing a few arrows, doodles, diagrams, or graphs to connect it to other ideas.

This note-taking method is best suited for those who can tap into their creativity while taking down notes. Rather than transcribing word for word, this approach encourages you to engage your artistry by drawing flow-based notes and making those interlinked connections as you go.

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  • The Charting Method

Similar to the Mapping Method and the Flow-Based Method, this helps you in connecting relationships and facts together between topics. It simply  involves classifying your information by dividing your sheet into three columns so you can easily access it.

Firstly, determine the categories to be covered in the lecture (Tip: set up your paper in advance by columns headed by these categories), then record information into the appropriate category as you listen to the lecture.

This approach works best for people who want to highlight key pieces of information on various topics and want to organize facts for easy review. Use this note-taking method when you want an overview of the whole course in one big paper sequence that allows  you to focus on just the relevant facts and their relationships. 

  • The Sentence Method

Another simple note-taking method is the Sentence Method. Basically, you’re jotting down everything that’s being said to the best of your ability. It’s versatile and easy to master, but it’s certainly not the most efficient method out there. But in comparison to the other methods, this approach still provides the most details and information for your next review session. 

To utilize this method, write every new thought, fact, or topic on a separate line—number as you progress to make it easier to comprehend. After your class, you can rewrite your notes into a more organized system (you’ll also be able to review again!).

This note-taking method is recommended for those who are attending fast-paced lectures where you don’t have the time needed to take more organized notes. You may also choose this approach for lessons without a clear structure.


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Malcolm Angoya
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