How do top students take notes?

July 25, 2018 ...

Don’t have time to read? Then give it a listen.


Top students don’t study more, they study in smarter ways. One of the most essential elements of studying and learning more efficiently is by taking notes. However, just taking notes randomly won’t cut it. There are certain note-taking techniques that researches have shown to be more effective and are followed many top students across the world. Today, I will share those techniques with you.

The five of the smartest ways to take notes inside a classroom are:

  1. Outline method
  2. Mind-map method
  3. Flow method
  4. Cornell method
  5. Write-on-the-slides method.

Let’s jump right in. I also added pictures to make it easier for you to understand.

The Outline Method

It is obviously the most disciplined way of taking notes.

In this process, at first you will make top level bullet points of the main points of the lecture.

Having done so, you will now create lower level bullet points to fill out the details. In other words, you will just note down the sub-points of the pre-written bullet points.

Outline method is indeed a straightforward and simple way of taking notes.

Screen Shot 2018 07 25 at 20.15.51

The Mind Map Method

In the mind mapping system, you just take a piece of paper and write down the name of the topic at the middle of it, then encircling the main topic of the lecture start branching off little trees and adding subtopics in all direction all over the paper.

It is almost similar to that of drawing a tree on a piece of paper; at first the trunk, later its branches, then its leaves. Eventually, you will have a big beautiful tree full of green leaves sitting on which birds are chirping! I’m kidding but you get the idea.

At the end, you will have a complete mind map of the particular topic which you are taking notes on.

Screen Shot 2018 07 25 at 20.15.57

The Flow Method

This note taking process was invented by the writer Scott Young.

Scott uses what he calls Holistic Learning (treating each bit of information as a single point, and weave an interconnected, messy web of information that forges stronger connection in your mind) and his approach is diametrically opposed to the rigid style of “Outline method”.

In this note taking style your goal is not to transcribe the lecture, rather learn from the lecture, then put your learning on the paper in your own words.

As earlier I have mentioned this method is opposite of “Outline method”, here you can go back and forth to edit your earlier points and establish a connection between them. In simple words, in “Flow method” you will document your mental image of the subject discussed.

Screen Shot 2018 07 25 at 20.16.05

The Cornell Method

“Cornell method” for taking notes was developed by Walter Pauk back in the 1950s.

When you take your notes in the Cornell style, you divide your paper into three different sections. The largest section is for taking notes normally. Say for example, you are taking notes in “Outline method” or it could be any of the three aforementioned methods which will be put in this section, we can term it as the “Note taking column”.

And beside this section there will be a smaller segment which we will call the “Cue column” where you will write down your questions or cues about the topic as soon as your class is dismissed which is meant to help you later.

Furthermore, underneath these two columns you will make a summary column to write down a summary of the lecture. These two additional sections, “Cue” and “Summary” column, are designed to help you build reviewable notes the first time you write them.

Screen Shot 2018 07 25 at 20.16.11

The Write-On-The-Slides Method

Now the last system of taking notes on this list is “Write-on-the-slides method” where you will basically write notes down on the slides of the printed out downloaded copy of the lecture, or for your convenience, you can simply call it as “Taking-notes-on-book method” because you will be taking notes on your books.

I hope from the description of this method you have already surmised that generally who amongst us follow this process of note taking: those who are too lazy to bring out their copies and take notes on them but as a student, we can relate and we forgive them. Although not a very effective method, but does the job.

There you go. Now you know the secrets to amazing note-taking. But just knowing them isn’t enough, you must start implementing them as soon as possible, starting from today.

So, choose a technique that suits you the most and start right now. Good luck on your journey of studying less but learning more.

This article’s audiobook is read by Wasima Noor Iqra

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