Note-Taking in the Present

For me, one of the most difficult parts of note-taking in class is knowing that the professor either goes too fast to keep up with notes in the moment, or knowing that they will circle back to a topic later and make it very difficult for me to keep my notes organized. There are a few ways to combat this, but they require patience and prior planning.

Scenario One: Professor “Students write at the speed of light, right?”

Lets say you’re in a class where the professor has all of the notes/lecture slides posted online. Additionally, to your great frustration, the professor covers the slides faster than you can take notes. You have the ability to write them out in advance, but you don’t know if there are other things you will need to write in advance.

Solution A: Print out the lecture slides in advance. This allows you to have the notes in paper-form, ready and accessible during lecture without you needing to write everything out while the professor is lecturing. It is not the most sustainable for a class with large lecture note documents, but it will cause you less stress and improve your in-the-moment, in-class]

Solution B: Keep a scratch sheet for on-the-board notes in class, and then write out those notes with the lecture slides in a formal notebook after class. This is more taxing, but it gives you the opportunity to relearn and reinforce the material as you write the notes. Plus it generally keeps you more organized.


Scenario Two: Professor “What section of chapter 6 are we in again? Or was it chapter 7?”

Now lets say you’re in a class where the professor lectures endlessly. You move from section to section, chapter to chapter seamlessly. Sounds great when you say it like that, but it makes looking back on your notes to review very difficult.

Solution A: Read ahead and know what topics belong in what section and chapter. This is not fool-proof, since the professor may cover material out of order, or not even in the provided materials (aka textbooks). However it may help you to have some piece of mind when you’re trying to section out your notes.

Solution B: Sort your notes by date. Instead of having your headers be chapter or section related, have them be the date of the lecture. Save a line below the date header and write the sections covered below it, after the fact. It keeps you organized in the moment, and after.


Scenario Three: Professor “If you were there in class, then you don’t need the notes online.”

Again, let say you’re in a class that is the horrific mix of Scenario One (lectures too fast) and Scenario Two (lectures have no structure) AND they don’t post their lecture slides online. The horrors, right?

Solution: Combine solution B for the first scenario and solution A for the second scenario. The best thing that you can do in a situation like this is be educated BEFORE you arrive. That way when they lecture, even if you can’t write down all of their notes, you at least walk away with a better understanding of the material, which is honestly why you’re there.


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