Overcoming the Problems About Note-taking


Most of my students think that in proficiency exams the most difficult part is listening part, because they think note taking is really challenging while listening to long lectures. In order to overcome this problematic issue, I found some tips. Here they are:

Listening Tips

You must learn to listen effectively because eighty percent of what you know is acquired through listening. Listening is a skill that requires the constant application of certain principles until they become habitual. Here are some suggestions:

1.Be prepared to listen by keeping up to date with your textbook reading. Read the chapter before the lecture!

2.Determine the main idea and all important details that were given in connection with it.

3.Learn to recognize that the speaker is making an important point by:

  1. pausing
  2. giving examples
  3. repeating what has been said
  4. repeating the textbook
  5. increasing volume or changing pitch of voice
  6. taking more time on one area
  7. adding class activities or worksheets
  8. using body language (facial expression, gestures, posture, pace)
  9. writing on the chalkboard
  10. using direct statements (this is very important) or signal words 
(examples: significant,most)

Ten Ways to Improve Listening

  1. Find area of interest – maintain eye contact even if the subject appears boring. There will be some information that will be useful.
  2. Judge the content, not delivery. Find out what the speaker knows, not how he presents it.
  3. Withhold evaluation until comprehension is complete – don’t become preoccupied with 
rebuttal before idea is completely presented. Don’t listen defensively.
  4. Listen for ideas – main ideas, central facts, organizational patterns.
  5. Be flexible in notetaking.
  6. Work at listening – spend energy to give conscious attention.
  7. Resist distractions – a matter of concentration.
  8. Exercise your mind – develop an appetite for hearing a variety of presentations difficult enough to challenge your mental capacities.
  9. Keep your mind open – be careful of emotional impact of certain words – don’t listen defensively composing a rebuttal.

10. Capitalize on thought speed.
Speech speed – 100-200 words per minute

Thought speed – 400-500 or more words per minute. Take advantage of differential – do not allow distractions during this time.

Ten Questions to Ask Yourself While Listening

1.What is he saying; what does it really mean?

2.How does that relate to what he said before?

3.Where is he going; what’s the point he’s trying to make?

4.How is that helpful; how can I use this?

5.Does this make any sense?

6.Am I getting the whole story?

7.How does this relate to what I already know?

8.Is he leaving anything out?

9.How does this relate to what I already know?

  1. Do I understand what he’s saying or should I ask for clarification?

Ten BAD Listening Habits, by Ralph G. Nichols

  1. Finding the subject uninteresting
  2. Judging delivery, not content.
  3. Allowing excessive emotional involvement
  4. Listening for details, not central ideas
  5. Using non-flexible notetaking
  6. Paying poor attention to the speaker
  7. Being easily distracted
  8. Avoiding difficult material
  9. Refusing to accept new ideas

10. Thinking about irrelevant topics

How To Take Good Lecture Notes

A good set of lecture notes is one of your most important assets in getting ready for an examination. If you have the facts in readable form, you are well equipped to do the necessary reviewing.

Many students take notes in a very haphazard style claiming that they will copy them later. This is a poor policy for two reasons:

(1) usually the notes don’t get copied and the originals are not much use after a few days or weeks have gone by, and

(2) if the notes are copied, it is a waste of time because they can just as well be done correctly in the first place.

Three important findings from studies concerned with notetaking:

  1. Notetaking helps you listen; it does not interfere with listening and comprehension.
  2. Students who study their notes using the recitation method remember one and a half times more after six weeks than students who do not review.
  3. Students who take no notes or do not study their notes forget approximately 80% of the lectures by the end of two weeks.


Good lecture notes must:

1. present a neat, attractive appearance.
2. indicate the main points of the lecture.
3. show the relationship of the details to the main points.
4. include enough illustrative detail to enrich notes and content.


  1. USE INK! Notes in pencil will smear and are hard to read anyway. Be sure to use a large notebook.
  2. Date your notes for reference in test preparation.
  3. Leave wide margins and don’t crowd your lines together. Notebook paper is cheap – 
never mind if you use a whole line for just one work. Plenty of white space is important in 
order to show the relationships of ideas to each other.
  4. Use notetaking shorthand to reduce as many ideas as possible.
    1. Reduce to essential words – don’t use complete sentences.
    2. Use symbols as a substitute for words.
    3. Abbreviate by using initials, half words, creative spelling.
    4. Don’t take too many notes. Do more listening than writing.
    5. Don’t try to take down everything the lecturer says. All lecturers have to repeat a 
great deal, but you only need to put it down once.

7.Don’t take down the first thing he says on any topic – it’s probably introductory 

  1. Listen for signals. He’s almost sure to say something about “The first point I want to 
discuss today…”
  2. Don’t try to make a formal outline . You’ll only get bogged down in your letters and 
numbers and won’t be able to concentrate on listening and trying to understand.

10. Underline the first main topic. Then write down, in list form but without numbers, the

most important things he talks about. (Don’t try to make sub- topics and sub-sub-topics.) Keepondoingthisuntilyoufindthatheistalkingaboutsomethingelse. Thenyouwill know it’s time for another main topic.

11. Don’t bother to number sub-topics unless the lecturer says: “There are three reasons…,” or mentions a specific number of facts. Then number them so you will be sure to learn that many facts when you study for your examination. In other words, don’t number just for the sake of numbering, but make the numbers mean something.

12. Read your notes over as soon after class as possible to fix handwriting, spelling and clarity.

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