Back-To-School: Note-Taking Tips, Tricks & Strategies

Top-10-Best-Evernote-Alternatives-2015This post is definitely aimed at high school and post-secondary students. Being a high school student myself, I had to learn how to write notes in a way that suited me. For the past two years of high school, I’ve been experimenting with different techniques, styles and writing utensils that work best with how I learn and understand information.

I quickly realized that my notes are my life-saver when it comes to tests and exam time. Your notes will be your most important tool when it comes to school. Every student must learn how to write notes, because if they don’t, in my opinion they’re screwed.

I still have loads of time to change and adapt my note-taking skills but I do have some tips and tricks that will hopefully help you guys in future classes.

Let’s get started!

Use abbreviations!

Abbreviating your notes will increase your note-taking speed and create space on your paper. Anything from symbols to pictures go a long way while note-taking. I use arrows, asterisks and numbers all the time in Science and English class!

Here are some abbreviations I use:


Tip Photoblog
Come up with your own abbreviations, especially in specialized classes. Abbreviations for special common terms that appear in your notes make for faster note-taking.


Keep it simple

What I do is reword information in a way that is easy to understand. This is what I mean by keeping it simple. DO NOT COPY WORD FOR WORD. You’ll be rushing to write everything and your notes will become illegible, so reword and/or write the important words down. Your notes are going to be your most important tool while in school, so not only do your notes have to look neat, they must be neat. Organization comes with simplicity my friends.

Tip PhotoblogWrite the date and the main subject of the lesson in the top right hand corner; it makes it easier to flip through your notes. You can also colour-code your lessons too!


Find classmates to compare notes with

This is very important in any class. First day of school, find people who take good notes, so when you miss a lesson, you can go back to these trusty people and get their notes. Not only for that reason, because everyone writes notes differently, you might have missed something or they worded something perfectly, you can just copy off of them!

These people make great study buddies! 😉

Tip Photoblog
If you miss something, put a question mark or a star near the subject and after class, ask your teacher or your fellow classmates about it.


Find a structure and style that works for YOU

This advice goes back to my intro. There are so many ways to write notes. For example, the classic Cornell Note-Taking and the T table. The way you take notes effects the way you learn. I use a combination of all common note-taking methods. The goal is to write in a way that help you remember and understand the information. This takes years to prefect so experimenting is key.

Tip Photoblog
Look at all your friends notes and take some ideas from them. That’s what I do!


Be Prepared!!

This is an obvious one but very important nonetheless. Bring your notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters to class!! Be prepared for anything! Seriously, a highlighter is your best friend. ALWAYS HAVE A HIGHLIGHTER HANDY!!

What I always keep in my pencil case:

  • mechanical pencils
  • a white eraser
  • sticky notes
  • a black, red, & blue pen
  • white out
  • highlighters (at least 3 different colours)

Keep your notes consistent. Don’t juggle different colours and writing utensils while writing your notes.

Rewrite your notes after class

This is something I always end up doing. A newer copy of notes will have less mistakes and it’ll probably be neater. Also, you’ll remember the information easier, making it helpful when it comes to exam time. Don’t wait a week to go over your notes. The information is fresh in your mind so you can always add more points or information.

Tip Photoblog
You can rewrite your notes in colour, making it more eye-appealing and fun to read. Some like using markers to write their notes. But find a pattern, too much colour can be busy and confusing to read.

Now I’m going to show you what my notes look like.


titles note

I use a different combo of these three labels, alternating between them. Sometimes for my titles, I put a box around it, other times, I underline. For the most part, my subtitles have a squiggly line underneath.

It is really important to label titles and subtitles. It makes the note more organized and when you flip back to the notes, it makes for easy searching.

Tip PhotoblogHighlight titles and subtitles to make it more eye-catching and even easier searching. Highlighting is the equivalent to bolding your words. Using different colours for different lessons, units and subjects are a good idea too.



I always use these 3 types of listing: lines, bullets and arrows. I use a combination of all three in my notes. I personally prefer the arrows, but the bullets are less time-consuming.

Tip PhotoblogIndenting is another way to list. I indent whenever I can. Try to use the most of the paper you’re using. The indents will draw your eyes to the note, making it (again) easier for skimming and reviewing.


note arrow

For me, I know I sometimes skip some information because I don’t want to miss what the teacher is saying. When you catch up, if you remember the information you didn’t put down but thought was important, use an arrow to link or refer the note back to where it belongs. I find this helpful when rewriting my notes because all my information will be in one place instead of all over the page.

Tip PhotoblogLearn to listen and write at the same time. Expect your teacher to NOT wait for you to finish writing before moving on with the lesson.

So that was my Back-To-School post on Note-Taking!! I really hope you find this useful. If you have any other tips you would like to share put them in the comments! I’d love to hear your strategies!!

Enjoy your summer! 😉



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