The How and What of Note Taking – Academic Survival Skill #2

When was the last time you asked for someone’s phone number, and realized later that you were missing one of the digits?  Did you go into stalker mode, and replace that missing digit by calling the number with a 0, then a 1, then a 2… 3….4…..5……….9, until you got the appropriate person on the other line?

Taking notes in the classroom is similar to writing down an important phone number; If you don’t get all the digits, you will be unable to speak with  the person you desire to talk to. The same is true when you don’t get the most important information during note taking in your classes; when it’s time to study for your test  or exam you will be unequipped with the information for the next test or quiz.

To better assist you with note-taking, I want to detail “WHAT” to record and “HOW to record it when taking notes during class.


  • Record the most important information (just like the most important digits of a phone number). Don’t try to write verbatim everything the teacher says, but jot down the main points in your OWN words.
  • Listen for the key words  that indicate what’s important. Phrases like..”The major cause was…”, “This is something you should remember,” etc.
  • Copy all important charts, sentences, and phrases that were posted on the board by the teacher. That way you have something to refer back to when studying.


  • Utilize symbols and abbreviations when taking notes. Try to use as few words as possible
  • Only use half of the paper (left or right) when taking notes in class. Utilize the other side (right or left) to come up with potential test questions and other notes that will support the study notes you took in class.
  • Use the outline format if possible when taking notes. It helps you give a systematic order to your notes. It also helps you better retain it, because of the viewable order.

Lastly, it is imperative that you attend class if you are going to take good notes. And if you are going to take good notes, its’s more imperative that you review your notes immedaitley and often. This second  survival skill along with the other  Academic Survival skills will definitely set you on course to Play Your “A” Game.

About The Author

Kantis Simmons

Kantis Simmons is a Rocket Scientist, Academic Guru, Author and Nationally Renowned Motivational Speaker that's on a mission to improve overall student and teacher performance in this country. Schools, colleges, and organizations bring him in to speak on topics like: How to Get Better Grades, How to Succeed in STEM, How to Prevent Teacher Burnout, and How to Motivate Students. He's the author of Playing Your 'A' Game, and creator of the Educate to Elevate Podcast. Request him to speak at 404-458-7668 or