Note Taking Skills

Why Learn Note Taking Skills?

Even good note takers can benefit from examining how they take notes and learning shortcuts and new ways of getting important information from classes. Students benefit from having an accurate record of what is taught learn in class. This site was developed to help students develop or enhance their skills in:

  • Working with your learning style instead of against it
  • Active listening and Critical thinking
  • Organizing information
  • Notes that match your learning style improve grades.
  • Note taking is a skill you will use throughout your career in meetings and trainings. 

The Good News!

  • There is no right or wrong way to learn and take notes.
  • It is important for all learners to find a system that makes sense to them and does not cause frustration. 
Take a minute to learn more reasons to develop your note taking skills!

Learning Styles

Working with your learning style instead of against it will make note taking less of a chore. Take this quick learning style survey developed by the Learning Center to find out how you learn.

Visual Learners 

  • Visual learners need to make their notes visually memorable.
  • This can be done by using color pens or highlighters, drawings, graphs, or charts.
  • Flash cards can be an effective study tool for visual learners. 

Auditory Learners

  • Auditory learners try to remember a person's voice or sounds when they are retrieving information
  • Auditory learners need to listen carefully during lectures. They need to focus more on what the instructor is saying than on getting down every detail. 
  • When they review their notes, they will benefit from reading and repeating key information out loud. 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Kinesthetic learners learn best when they engage with what they are learning through activity.
  • During lectures, they need to focus on their note taking. The writing itself is an activity that helps them process what they are learning.
  • Kinesthetic learners learn best when they are active during study time. Some ways to do this include drawing diagrams or illustrations while reviewing notes.

Tactile Learners

  • Tactile learners associate information with touch. 
  • They learn best when they incorporate different textures or shapes into their studying. This allows the learner to associate information with sensation.

Multimodal Learners

  • Multimodal learners have more than one learning style. For example, a multi-modal learner may be a visual and kinesthetic learner.
  • Multimodal learners will need to experiment with techniques for each of their learning styles to find a method that works for them.

Active Listening and Critical Thinking

Active listening

Using active listening techniques is the best way to capture important information. 

  • Instructors are the best source of information on what may be important.
  • Listen for verbal cues like, “To start…”, “First, second” or “This will be on the test” will help you identify critical information.
  • Instructors may also speak faster or slower when the information is important. 
  • Ask questions to better understand the material. 
  • Take notes while you listen.   

Critical thinking

Using critical thinking techniques can also make it easier to identify important information.

  • Identify important ideas, premises, and conclusions.
    • They synthesize facts.
    • They provide context for the information presented in class.
    • They support the process of drawing conclusions.
  • Analyze and clarify information.
    • Determine if the idea, premise, or conclusion is reasonable.
    • Understand if needed information has been omitted.
    • Help in testing ideas against relevant information.
  • Evaluate information
    • Determine if the information is accurate and factual.
  • Draw logical conclusions about information
    • Understand the implications of the information.
    • Identify potential bias.
    • Determine relevance.

Organizing Notes

In order to be useful, notes need to have a structure that is compatible with your learning style. The following examples are a few of many possible ways to take notes. This is a good start to finding the best match for your learning style. You can search "note taking methods for college" in your browser to find more note taking methods.

Download the note taking abbreviation handout.

Cornell Method

  • With the Cornell Method, the page is structured into zones.
  • During lecture, notes are taken in the large center section.
  • After class, notes need to be reviewed and revised.
  • Important topics and vocabulary words go in the left column.
  • Compose a summary at the bottom of the page to synthesize lecture content.

Outline Method

  • The outline method can be as simple as a series of indents, or you can use bullet points, letters, or numbers. 
  • The main topic starts at the left margin, and you indent for sub-topics. 
  • It can be helpful to leave extra space in between the lines of the outline in case the instructor comes back to the same topic later.

Charting Method

  • The charting method works well in classes where the information the instructor is giving is highly structured. 
  • It can provide a visual format that makes it easy to take down information and skim your notes. 
  • This method can also be used as a tool for summarizing notes after class, and may be helpful for taking notes from your textbook.

Mapping Method

  • This method is visual and brief.  
  • It is useful for non-linear thinkers and those who do not need to take down a lot of detail to remember what was said.
  • It can also help to organize lecture material from instructors who are not linear-thinkers.

Where can I go to Learn More or Get Support?

The Learning Center

  • Academic coaching is a free support service available to all PSU students. Students work with coaches to create measurable plans to meet their academic goals, note taking, including time management, and study skills.
  • The Learning Center also offers tutoring services in a number of subject areas.

Disability Resource Center


  • At the beginning of Fall, Winter, and Spring term, the DRC offers group workshops on Note Taking Skills and Adaptive Technology for Note Taking and Organization.

Interns or Access Counselor & Consultants

If you would like to meet with a DRC Intern or Access Counselor & Consultant to learn more about note taking and update your skills, please fill out this brief questionnaire (make sure you are logged in with your account). We will reach out to you to schedule a time to meet and talk.

Adaptive Technology

Adaptive technology can play an important role in note taking and support learning.

  • The DRC has developed a webpage that provides an overview of Adaptive Technology for note taking and organization.
  • The full workshop video is also available for you to view.
  • To learn more about adaptive technology for note taking, you can email to schedule a one-on-one appointment.
Adaptive Technology for Note Taking & Organization

Complete Note Taking Skills Workshop

NOTE: Most of the handout material referenced in this workshop is available on this webpage.

Before watching the video, you can take this quick learning style survey developed by the Learning Center, or you can follow along with the learning style survey in the video.

Download the note taking abbreviation handout.

If you have questions about the information on this page, please contact the Disability Resource Center.

Phone: 503-725-4150

Check our home page for hours and Virtual Front Desk information.