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How note taking can improve study success

Do you ever feel like you’re taking notes without a plan of how to use them to improve the effectiveness of your study?

If you’re a keen note taker you’ll be happy to know that you’re doing yourself a favour. Note taking is an integral part of the learning process - it promotes organisation, comprehension, message retention and critical thinking.  If done right, note taking can give your study the edge that you need.

Whether you like to put pen to paper or have fully embraced the digital world, here are a few tips to perfect the art of note taking.


  • Know your subject matter: Take 15 minutes to get to know what you’re about to learn so you can flag the areas where you might have questions.
  • Have the essentials ready: Whether your weapon of choice is pen and paper, a blank word document, or an app like Evernote, make sure you’re ready to get straight into it.


  • Don’t capture everything: Focus on the key points in your notes and use references to your reading materials so you can refer to sections in full when needed.
  • Focus on the tricky bits: When you are studying, it is tempting to focus on the parts that come easily to you - but you already know this stuff! Make sure you pay special attention to the parts you don't understand first time round.
  • Shorthand is king:  Those important points that you do capture can still be lengthy so consider using shorthand or symbols to jumpstart your memory when you re-read your notes.
  • Cornell method: If you’re really looking to streamline your note taking have a go at the Cornell Method which separates your notes into a generic column, a recall column and a summary section for easy navigation and retention.


  • Review and re-read: There is no point in taking detailed notes if you never look at them again. Review and re-read all your notes, putting in extra research to answer any questions you need answer to.
  • Summarise: Reading over notes from hours ago can be confusing, let alone weeks or months ago when it comes to exam time. Instead, put yourself ahead of the pack by summarising your notes so you have the key information to revisit before exams.

Ultimately, when it comes to note taking you’ve got to find what works for you so you can stick with it and remember the information in your learning material.

Do you have a specific study question? Give our SLOs a call on 1300 937 765 any day of the week – they’re there to support you through your study journey.