Effective Notetaking Improves your GPA

Students can improve their college GPA by learning how to take class notes effectively. If students could improve their ability to take lecture notes, it would be the first step in making college a more rewarding, and hopefully less stressful, experience for them. I decided upon five notetaking tips that students can follow to increase their retention and comprehension of class lectures:

  1. Go to class prepared
  2. Improve your listening skills
  3. Develop a notetaking method that works for you
  4. Pay close attention to content
  5. Review and edit your notes.


The purpose of this document is to give college students effective ways of taking notes during lectures to improve their college success.


To research this topic I reviewed several texts and on-line web sites that gave suggestions as to how students could become more effective learners and methods of study that could accomplish this. The importance of class notetaking was emphasized over and over. By looking at many different suggestions and notetaking guidelines, I compiled a list of top 5 tips for effective notetaking that will enhance students' learning abilities and improve their college success.


Students sometimes have a hard time making the transition from high school to college. Students who did extremely well in high school may find themselves struggling in college. Part of this can be due to increased freedom and now having to structure their own time, rather than having it done for them. Also, many students don't do as well because the style of teaching is so different. High school instructors rely more on textbook learning, whereas college professors rely more on lecture. Students find themselves inadequately prepared for this new style of teaching and have to rethink their study habits and skills in order to succeed.

A relatively easy way for students to improve their retention and comprehension is by learning how to effectively take notes. Several studies have been done on the importance of taking lecture notes in college and how doing so improves a student's grades. First, it is important to understand why taking notes is so crucial. A person's ability to remember material presented to them fades very quickly.

According to Walter Pauk (84), people lose their retention at the following rates:

20 minutes
47% forgotten
1 day
62% forgotten
2 days
69% forgotten
75 days
75% forgotten
78 days
78% forgotten

Hence, having notes to fall back on for review is essential for attaining good grades.

Notetaking, in addition to helping retention, allows students to become effective learners. George Dudycha, a professor of psychology at Wittenberg College states, "The taking of notes facilitates learning. When one takes notes he attends to what is said and done; he analyzes and thinks rapidly about what he sees and hears; and finally he records his observations. Attending to, analyzing, and doing something about a class lecture means the student is actively engaged in those activities that are essential to effective learning." He goes on to say that notes are "the cues that stimulate recall." (179-180).

College academic and learning skill centers actively promote the use of notetaking in lectures to improve a student's learning capabilities:

  • NOTETAKING is one way to enhance listening, and using a systematic approach to the taking and reviewing of your notes can add immeasurably to your understanding and remembering the content of lectures. (Berkeley).
  • It's a simple fact of academic survival - the best students take the best notes! Notes not only aid comprehension, but they also make learning active and, most importantly, make study time more efficient, especially during end-of- the semester review sessions for final exams. (Colgate University).
  • Effective notetaking is an essential part of any successful academic study program. It is a high level skill, involving such complex cognitive processes as analyzing, synthesizing, writing, evaluating, and reviewing. But more than anything else, it requires active listening. (University of Texas at Austin).

Taking notes consistently in a predetermined format allows a student to get the most out of class lectures. Something as simple as having the right materials and keeping up with the class reading assignments is the first step to effective notetaking.

The University of Texas at Austin Learning Skills Center encourages its students to have a positive attitude. "A positive attitude toward your course means assuming that the material is worth learning and not prejudging the material or the instructor. Rather than tuning out, encourage yourself with positive messages."

Not everyone processes information the same way, so it is important for students to develop methods and strategies that work the best for them. Using a trial and error approach can help a student fine tune what type of structure and organization works best for them.

Students sometimes have a difficult time knowing what to write down during a lecture. Knowing some specific content items they should look for will help them. As they get more proficient at their notetaking, which will happen over time, it will be easier for them to weed out what is important and what is not.

Probably the most emphasized suggestion for effective notetaking is reviewing and editing one's notes. Few students do this and it is considered by all academic skills centers and other authorities on effective study skills to be the most important part of effective notetaking and essential to increasing one's learning capacity. Taking the time to review and edit one's notes as soon as possible after a class will reap tremendous rewards later when it comes time to study for an exam.


Relatively few students know the importance of taking effective notes and how much it can improve their retention and comprehension of lecture material. By following a few simple guidelines on how to take notes effectively, a student can improve their college GPA, and relieve a lot of stress when it comes time to study for and take an exam.


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