How to Take Effective Notes

While we might associate note-taking with school, it’s something most of us continue doing for the bulk of our lives. Whether you want to succeed in school or be on top of your professional career, efficient note-taking is a valuable skill for retaining and being able to recite information.

If your techniques are a bit all over the place, it’s time to get back to the basics and reboot your notes. Remember, there is no single best technique, so look for one that will work for you and feel free to experiment. With that in mind, here are some of the best practices.

Anticipate having to take notes

Whether you’re attending a conference or something you don’t think will be note-heavy, such as perhaps a course from 3D animation colleges, make sure you’re bringing everything you need to be an attentive listener and an organized note-taker. Don’t forget a pad of paper or notebook, pens, backup pens and, if necessary, eyeglasses or hearing aids. By simply creating the habit of anticipating having to take notes, you’ll find yourself naturally scribbling down key facts and ideas when the time comes.

Highlighters are your best friends

Rereading your notes after highlighting or underlining parts of the text can help you retain information better, by breaking down important data into digestible chunks. You don’t need a full set of colours, two should be enough, one for main points and the other for sub points, interesting facts or unanswered questions. One useful tip is to highlight text so that multiple chunks can be read together as a sentence, skipping the details. Another is to take the time to write down a summary of a passage in the margins when it’s too long to be worth highlighting. The point of highlighting is to hone your skills at identifying what information in a text is important and what is disposable. This will come in very handy when the information you have to assimilate is complex and multilayered, such as that from textbooks assigned in pharmacy technician courses.


Your system of note-taking should allow you to write quickly and get down basic concepts, but also to be able find information quickly in your notes later on. For example, consider using an outline format, or clearly separating your notes into different sections. Organization is key with notes, and the more organized you are the better the chances you’ll actually retain the information. Stick to keywords and very short sentences whenever possible, as the basic idea of notes is for them to be light, but have enough triggers in the keywords to jumpstart your memory when you look at them again. If your notes are messy and illegible, you need to find a method that allows you to write quickly but clearly. Some people develop their own systems of symbols and abbreviations, like an asterisk to denote an important task or a question mark to denote an item to research later.

Focus on recording information that is new to you

As tempting as it might be, taking notes about stuff you already know doesn’t end up helping much in the end. Even if you’re taking complex courses, such as those from sustainable architecture colleges, you should be able to scan through your notes and find the information you’re looking for, so don’t allow them to get cluttered.