Note Taking and Study Skills

Welcome to MECC’s Note Taking and Study Skills resource page. We want you to be a successful student while at MECC. Research has shown that students who take notes perform better on tests than students who do not (Rhamani & Sadeghi, 2011). Study skills and note taking are skills – which means you can learn something new or improve your current skill set by practice.  Since there are multiple ways to study and take notes, take some time to find out what works best for you and for each of your classes. On this page are multiple free resources for you to use. If you would like more information, please contact The Learning Center to schedule some time to meet with a tutor to help enhance your study skills!

Note Taking Systems

5 Methods 

  • The Cornell Method
  • The Outline Method
  • The Mapping Method
  • The Charting Method
  • The Sentence Method


The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes without laborious recopying. After writing the notes in the main space, use the left-hand space to label each idea and detail with a key word or “cue.”

Method – Rule your paper with a 2 ½ inch margin on the left leaving a six-inch area on the right in which to make notes. During class, take down information in the six-inch area. When the instructor moves to a new point, skip a few lines. After class, complete phrases and sentences as much as possible. For every significant bit of information, write a cue in the left margin. To review, cover your notes with a card, leaving the cues exposed. Say the cue out loud, and then say as much as you can of the material underneath the card. When you have said as much as you can, move the card and see if what you said matches what is written. If you can say it, you know it.

Advantages – Organized and systematic for recording and reviewing notes. Easy format for pulling out major concept and ideas. Simple and efficient. Saves time and effort. “Do-it-right-in the-first-place system.”

Disadvantages – None

When to Use – In any lecture situation.


Dash or indented outlining is usually best except for some science classes such as physics or math. 1. The information which is most general begins at the left with each more specific group of facts indented with spaces to the right. 2. The relationships between the different parts are carried out through indenting. 3. No numbers, letters, or Roman numerals are needs.

Method – Listening and then write in points in an organized pattern based on space indention. Place major points farthest to the left. Indent each more specific point to the right. Levels of importance will be indicated by distance away from the major point. Indention can be as simple as or as complex as labeling the indentations with Roman numerals or decimals. Markings are not necessary as space relationships will indicate the major/minor points.

Advantages – Well-organized system if done right. Outlining records content as well as relationships. It also reduces editing and is easy to review by turning main points into questions.

Disadvantages – Requires more thought in class for accurate organization. This system may not show relationships by sequence when needed. It doesn’t lend to diversity of a review attach for maximum learning and question application. This system cannot be used if the lecture is too fast.

When to Use – The outline format can be used if the lecture is presented in outline organization. This may be either deductive (regular outline) or inductive (reverse outline where minor points start building to a major point). Use this format when there is enough time in the lecture to think about and make organization decisions when they are needed. This format can be most effective when your note taking skills are super and sharp and you can handle the outlining regardless of the note taking situation.

Example – Extrasensory perception

  • Definition: means of perceiving without use of sense organs.
    • Three kinds
      • Telepathy: sending messages
      • Clairvoyance: forecasting the future
      • Psychokinesis: perceiving events external to situation
    • Current status
      • no current research to support or refute
      • few psychologists say impossible


Mapping is a method that uses comprehension/concentration skills and evolves in a note taking form which relates each fact or idea to every other fact or idea. Mapping is a graphic representation of the content of a lecture. It is a method that maximizes active participation, affords immediate knowledge as to its understanding, and emphasizes critical thinking.

Advantages – This format helps you to visually track your lecture regardless of conditions. Little thinking is needed and relationships can easily be seen. It is also easy to edit your notes by adding numbers, marks, and color coding. Review will call for you to restructure thought processes which will force you to check understanding. Review by covering lines for memory drill and relationships. Main points can be written on flash or note cards and pieced together into a table or larger structure at a later date.

Disadvantages – You may not hear changes in content from major points to facts.

When to Use – Use when the lecture content is heavy and well-organized. May also be used effectively when you have a guest lecturer and have no idea how the lecture is going to be presented.



If the lecture format is distinct (such as chronological), you may set up your paper by drawing columns and labeling appropriate headings in a table.

Method – Determine the categories to be covered in lecture. Set up your paper in advance by columns headed by these categories. As you listen to the lecture, record information (words, phrases, main ideas, etc.) into the appropriate category.

Advantages – Helps you track conversation and dialogues where you would normally be confused and lose out on relevant content. Reduces amount of writing necessary. Provides easy review mechanism for both memorization of facts and study of comparisons and relationships.

Disadvantages – Few disadvantages except learning how to use the system and locating the appropriate categories. You must be able to understand what’s happening in the lecture.

When to Use – Test will focus on both facts and relationships. Content is heavy and presented fast. You want to reduce the amount of time you spend editing and reviewing at test time. You want to get an overview of the whole course on one big paper sequence.

Example – Chart format for a history class:


Method – Write every new thought, fact or topic on a separate line, numbering as you progress.

Advantages – Slightly more organized than the paragraph. Gets more or all of the information. Thinking to tract content is still limited.

Disadvantages – Can’t determine major/minor points from the numbered sequence. Difficult to edit without having to rewrite by clustering points which are related. Difficult to review unless editing cleans up relationship.

When to Use – Use when the lecture is somewhat organized, but heavy with content which comes fast. You can hear the different points, but you don’t know how they fit together. The instructor tends to present in point fashion, but not in grouping such as “three related points.”

Example 1

A revolution is any occurrence that affects other aspects of life, such as economic life, social life, and so forth. Therefore revolutions cause change. (See page 29-30 in your text about this.)

  • Sample Notes – Revolution – occurrence that affects other aspects of life: e.g., econ., socl. Etc. C.f. text, pp. 29-30

Example 2

Melville did not try to represent life as it really was. The language of Ahab, Starbuck, and Ishmael, for instance, was not that of real life.

  • Sample Notes – Mel didn’t repr. Life as was; e.g. lang. Of Ahab, etc. no of real life.

Example 3

At first, Freud tried conventional, physical methods of treatment such as giving baths, massages, rest cures, and similar aids. But when these failed he tried techniques of hypnosis that he had seen used by Jean-Martin Charcot. Finally, he borrowed an idea from Jean Breuer and used direct verbal communication to get an unhypnotized patient to reveal unconscious thoughts.

  • Sample Notes – Freud 1st – used phys. trtment; e.g., baths, etc. This fld. 2nd – used hypnosis (fr. Charcot) Finally – used vrb. commun. (fr. Breuer) – got unhpynop, patnt to reveal uncons. thoughts.


Deese, James and Ellin. How To Study, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1979.

Johnson, Sue. The 4 T’s: Teacher/You, Text, Talk, Test –

A Systematic Approach to  Learning Success. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Pauk, Walter. How to Study in College, 2nd edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Raygor, Alton L. and David Wark. Systems for Study. New York: McGraw- Hill, Inc, 1970.


Bloom’s  Taxonomy  Action  Verbs

Definitions I. Remembering
Bloom’s Definitions Exhibit memory of  previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts, and answers.
Verbs Choose   •   Define   •   Find   •   How   •   Label   •   List   •   Match   •   Name   •   Omit   •   Recall   •   Relate   •   Select   •   Show   •   Spell   •   Tell   •   What   •   When   •   Where   •   Which   •   Who   •   Why
Definitions II. Understanding
Bloom’s Definitions Demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas.
Verbs Classify   •   Compare   •   Contrast   •   Demonstrate   •   Explain   •   Extend   •   Illustrate   •   Infer   •   Interpret   •   Outline   •   Relate   •   Rephrase   •   Show   •   Summarize   •   Translate
Definitions III. Applying
Bloom’s Definitions Solve problems to new situations by applying acquired  knowledge, facts, techniques and  rules in a different way.
Verbs Apply   •   Build   •   Choose   •   Construct   •   Develop   •   Experiment  with   •   Identify   •   Interview   •   Make  use  of   •   Model   •   Organize   •   Plan   •   Select   •   Solve   •   Utilize
Definitions IV. Analyzing
Bloom’s Definitions Examine and break information into parts by identifying motives or causes. Make  inferences and  find evidence to support  generalizations.
Verbs Analyze   •   Assume   •   Categorize   •   Classify   •   Compare   •   Conclusion   •   Contrast   •   Discover   •   Dissect   •   Distinguish   •   Divide   •   Examine   •   Function   •   Inference   •   Inspect   •   List   •   Motive   •   Relationships   •   Simplify   •   Survey   •   Take  part  in   •   Test  for   •   Theme
Definitions V. Evaluating
Bloom’s Definitions Present and defend opinions by making judgments about  information, validity of ideas, or quality of work  based on a set of  criteria.
Verbs Agree   •   Appraise     •   Assess   •   Award   •   Choose   •   Compare   •   Conclude   •   Criteria   •   Criticize   •   Decide   • Deduct   •   Defend   •   Determine   •   Disprove   •   Estimate   •   Evaluate   •   Explain   •   Importance   •   Influence   •   Interpret   •   Judge   •   Justify   •   Mark   •   Measure   •   Opinion   •   Perceive   •   Prioritize   •   Prove   •   Rate   •   Recommend   •   Rule  on   •   Select   •   Support   •   Value
Definitions VI. Creating
Bloom’s Definitions Compile information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative   solutions.
Verbs Adapt •   Build   •   Change   •   Choose   •   Combine   •   Compile   •   Compose   •   Construct   •   Create   •   Delete   •   Design   •   Develop   •   Discuss   •   Elaborate   •   Estimate   •   Formulate   •   Happen   •   Imagine   •   Improve   •   Invent   •   Make  up   •   Maximize   •   Minimize   •   Modify   •   Original   •   Originate   •   Plan   •   Predict   •   Propose Solution   •   Solve   •   Suppose   •   Test   •   Theory

SDV 100 College Survival Skills

SDV 100 College Survival Skills
Guidelines for Taking Multiple-Choice Tests

  1. Circle or underline important words in the item. This will help you focus on the information
    most needed to identify the correct answer choice.
  2.  Read all the answer choices before selecting one.
  3.  Cross out answer choices you are certain are not correct. This will help you narrow down
    correct answers.
  4. Look for two answer choices that are opposites. One is likely to be correct.
  5. Look for hints about the correct answer choice in other items on the test. The correct choice
    may be part of another item on the test.
  6. Look for answer choices that contain language used by your teacher or found in your
    textbooks. An answer choice that contains such language is usually correct.
  7. Do not change your initial answer unless you are sure another answer choice is correct. More
    often than not, your first choice is correct.
  8. Choose “all of the above” if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are correct. Do
    not choose “all of the above” if even just one of the other answer choices is not correct.
  9. Choose “none of the above” if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are
    incorrect. Do not choose “none of the above” if even just one of the other answer choices is

Essay Test Study Tips 

Essay tests assess your mastery of themes and overall ideas. When you study for essay tests, your goal should be to recall broad information in an organized way. Your studying for essay tests should be related to this goal.

  1. Assemble the materials that contain the information that will be covered on the test. This includes your textbook, your textbook notes, and your class notes.
  2. Read these materials to identify themes and overall ideas. Each time you identify one, label an index card with the name of that theme or overall idea. You will often find the same theme or overall idea in one or more places, but use just one card to represent it.
  3. For each card you prepare in Step 2, carefully review your textbook, textbook notes, and class notes and add written details about the theme or overall idea to the card.
  4. Once you have completed Step 3 for each card, review your cards several times. Doing this will give you a working familiarity with the information that is most likely to be the basis of questions on the test.
  5. Now is the time to think like your teacher. Try to predict the questions your teacher will ask on the test. Write each question on its own index card. When writing the questions, include direction words often used by teachers, such as explain or compare.
  6. For each card you prepared in Step 5, write a response to the question on that card (write on the back of the card and on additional cards if necessary). Use the cards you developed in Step 3 to help you answer each question. When you complete Step 6, you will have a set of study cards, each containing a possible test question and a written response to that question.
  7. Carry the study cards you developed in Step 6 with you so that you can review them frequently. Be sure to review these cards the evening before the test.

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Rahmani, M., & Sadeghi, K. (2011). Effects of Note-Taking Training on Reading Comprehension and Recall. The Reading Matrix : an International Online Journal, 11, 116-128.