Take Note!

Take Note!

Actually, the title should be Take Notes, but I wanted to get your attention. 

I had a Quora question sent to me last week: “What is the importance of effective note-taking?”


That is the very short answer.  If you are taking notes, presumably, you are reading a text carefully or listening intently to a lecture. In other words, you are paying attention.

It is difficult to take notes without being engaged to some degree.  I am always rattling on about being engaged when it comes to education because I think without it, you are lost.

Sure, you might pick up a few details here and there.  You might be able to memorize a chart or some list of data for a short time; however, you have not really learned the material. 

In order to learn well, you need to be available – your brain needs to be aware and interested.

hmmmmmmmmTaking notes effectively motivates you to ask questions, to find the answers, and to write them down in a way that you can understand the information and access it later.

Notice that I did say taking notes “effectively.”  Note-taking does take some practice and thought.  Some students don’t note-take as much as copy.  Copying is not entirely the same animal!

You want to first understand, to some degree at least, what you are writing down.  If you don’t understand, you either need to re-read or read on a bit until you have a fuller comprehension of the text, story, or whatever material you are studying.

Don’t note everything.  Take your time to read carefully and absorb the material.  Take your time to connect new information to past information or alternative bits of knowledge that are already in your repertoire.  Take the time to “talk it out” with yourself.  If you can’t speak aloud because you are in a classroom, just imagine doing so in your head.  If are alone or with someone who already knows you talk to yourself, say it aloud!

When I am learning something new, I often pace and rehash the information to myself, turning it every which way I can to understand it.  Sometimes, when I am out walking for pleasure, I will mentally review what I have been learning to rehearse it in a different way in a kind of kinesthetic learning. 

So, engagement is the most important reason for taking effective notes.

Everything else follows from this.

Notes are very useful for study purposes.  After you have written your notes, they can be used instead of trying to re-read entire textbooks or listen again to podcasts or lectures online, and so on. 

If they are written well, you have an abbreviated version of all the information you need.

Also, if you have written effective notes, you have already practised writing out the ideas, concepts, and how they all work together in your own words.  Your notes might have short-forms and abbreviations (actually they should have), but the ideas are still presented in a way that you understand and will be able to regenerate on a quiz, test, or essay question in an exam.

In other words, you are constantly being prepared!  You are learning every day that you engage with the material and take notes. You will understand more and remember more in the long term.


Taking effective notes helps you in the following ways:

1.       To become engaged and stay engaged.

2.       To ask the right questions and actively seek answers.

3.       To increase comprehension and retention.

4.       To improve your ability to attend to material for longer periods of time – increasing your attention span. (Listen up ADD / ADHD students!)

5.       To improve your ability to organize as you make determinations on what is important and what is not – and how all the pieces fit together.

6.       To excel at pop quizzes, tests, exams, and writing assignments. Make a note of it!

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