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Effective listening and note-taking guidelines PDF Print E-mail

“Oh no, how can I pass when I can’t understand this jumble of notes?” or “Am I ever going to pass, I just can’t seem to grasp anything in class?”

If you’ve ever asked yourself such questions, you no longer have to despair, as effective listening and note-taking skills can be learned, practised and mastered.

Wakey, wakey – Taking an active interest in your lectures will prevent boredom - image from

The following five points will teach you effective listening and note-making skills.

1. Be a positive, active learner

  • Give your tutor your undivided attention.
  • Listen for and note summaries or conclusions.
  • Take an interest in the subject. You will get more out of the lecture if you listen with an active interest.
  • Make a point to ask any questions that you may have. You can develop possible questions by pre-reading the recommended text as well as doing background research.

Given the challenge of sourcing textbooks, it is recommended to approach your tutors at the beginning of each term/semester for a list of recommended texts.

This will give you enough time to borrow these books from the tutor, libraries or friends.

You can also get information on a wide range of subjects from the internet.

2. Make accurate notes paying special attention to the main ideas

  • Listen for points of emphasis and structure. If something is said to be a “point” or an “issue”, make sure to note it.

3. Leave lots of space between ideas

  • Leave a few lines after each paragraph blank.
  • This gives you space to add notes in your own words when revising. Integrating study material with what you already know will help you to learn the material on a deeper level.
  • The extra space will also make it easier for you to find material when you are studying.

4. Review your notes - ten minutes for each hour of lecture material - within 24 hours

  • Research into how we remember has shown that if you don’t recall, review, or work with what you have learned on a given day, within 24 hours you will forget 50% to 80% of it.

5. Set up your notes so you can study effectively from them

  • Leave the left margins of each page blank so that you can jot down questions to guide you when you revise your notes.
  • Leave the back of the page blank, so you can fold the page, cover the notes, and answer the questions when studying.

With clear, well laid out notes you will be well on your way to achieving and maintaining good results.

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