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Effective Listening and Note Taking

Did you know..?
You can think about 4 times faster than a lecturer can speak!?!?

Effective LISTENING requires the expenditure of energy; to compensate for the rate of the presentation, you have to actively intend to listen. NOTETAKING is one way to enhance listening, and using a systematic approach to the taking and reviewing of your notes can add immeasurably to your understanding and remembering the content of lectures.

Before Class

  • Develop a mind-set geared toward listening--prepare yourself to pay attention.
  • Test yourself over the previous lecture while waiting for the next one to begin.
  • Skim relevant reading assignments to acquaint yourself with main ideas.
  • Do what you can to improve physical and mental alertness (fatigue, hunger, time of day, where you sit in the classroom all affect motivation).
  • Choose notebooks that will enhance your notetaking: a separate notebook for each course.
  • Decide that you will listen.

During Class

  • Listen for the structure and information in the lecture.
  • Avoid distractions, emotional reaction or boredom.
  • Be consistent in your use of form, abbreviation, etc. in notetaking.
  • Pay attention to the speaker for verbal, physical, and visual clues to what's important.
  • Label important points and organizational clues: main points and examples.
  • When possible, translate the lecture into your own words, but if you can't, don't let it worry you to inattention.
  • If you feel you don't take enough notes, divide your page into 5 sections and try to fill each part every 10 minutes (or work out your own formula).
  • Ask questions if you don't understand.

After Class

  • Clear up any questions with either the teacher or a classmate.
  • Fill in missing points or misunderstood terms from the text or other sources
  • Edit your notes, labeling main points, adding clues and highlighting.
  • Make note of your ideas and reflections in a different color ink than that of the speaker.


  • Review your notes: glance at your clues and see how much you can remember before rereading the notes.
  • Make up and answer possible test questions.