Category Archives: Cram it! Studying Tips

How to Take College Lecture Notes that are Actually Coherent Later

Taking good class notes during a lecture is incredibly important if you’re going to make it in college. While it can help to have a voice-recorder handy for note-taking, it’s still important to have visible college lecture notes in front of your face when it comes to studying for the eventual exam. But if your notes look like scribble-scrabble, then you might as well beg some legible lecture notes off your college classmate…which is a bit too high school, don’t you think? Here is some advice for taking clear, efficient lecture notes you’ll actually be able to use later for finals.

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Gather your supplies

No war was ever won without the right ammunition, and the same rules apply for the university battleground. To succeed in college, you have to come to class armed with sharp pencils, sturdy notebooks, and other essential school supplies.

You may need:

  • Binders
  • College-ruled paper (not wide-ruled)
  • Ink pens- more than one!
  • Highlighter markers
  • Pencils
  • Laptop with PowerPoint
  • iPad with note-taking apps like iA Writer, Pear Note, or Omni Outliner

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If your professor uses PowerPoint notes, then you may be able to download them before his lecture. Check online before class for lecture outlines.

Laptop or paper?

Don’t rule out taking old-fashioned paper and pen notes just because you got a brand-new expensive laptop. Some college students find they need a laptop for certain classes, and the old stand-by college notebook for lectures. Try using a laptop for lecture notes one day, and switching to paper notes the next, and see which results in better, clearer lecture note-taking.

Also, some college professors don’t permit laptops in their classroom, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to leave your laptop computer at your dorm.


Part of taking good lecture notes is listening attentively to your teacher’s lecture style. Most teachers have a style of speaking; they drops clues when they get to points which will be on the exam or when they’re about to stray completely off the topic.

  • Listen for cues like, “Moving on…” or “Next, we’ll discuss…”
  • When your professor pauses during a lecture, he’s not catching his breath- he’s warning you to get your notepad ready!
  • And if he gets repetitive, it’s not because he’s forgetful; it means this is a really important point and you’d better be taking good notes!
  • Likewise, if your professor raises her voice during a lecture, it’s not because she’s hard of hearing- it’s your cue to write this down!

Have a good note-taking system

Hands down, the Cornell method note-taking system is one of the best; it involves dividing your note paper into three sections: Cues, notes, and summary.

Notes column

The “notes” column is on the right-hand side. Use short abbreviated sentences to “transcribe” the lecture in short-hand.

Cues column

Your “cues” column should be on the left-hand side of your notes. Use this section after class to record questions or clues which will later help you remember key ideas presented during the lecture.


Leave a section at the bottom of your college lecture notes for a short summary of the main points you picked up during your college lecture.

To get you started, here’s a Cornell Lecture Notes PDF Generator


Your turn!

Will you use our advice for college lecture notes? Do you have any good study habits to share?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

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14 Tips for Writing a College Level Essay

Learning how to write a great college-level essay can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially for a freshman just starting out in a new university. Since you’re going to be spending the bulk of the next four years writing essays, you might as well get used it. With practice, good writing skills become second nature. Whether you’re a student working on a school thesis or preparing for a college level exam, these writing tips will help you score an “A!”

14 Tips for Writing a College Level Essay

Write an awesome paper!

College Writing Tips

These 14 important tips for writing a great college paper will get you on the right track.

  1. Don’t procrastinate! You’re not in high school anymore. Resist the temptation to wait until Sunday night to start working on a paper that’s due Monday afternoon. Let’s face it- there’s no way you’re turning in your best work. And your best is what it takes to get a good college education.
  2. Research your material. Do the work. Research your topic on the internet or at your university library. Collect information the way you used to collect Pokémon cards. Your professor isn’t stupid! He can tell the difference between a college thesis that’s been researched and analyzed thoroughly and one that’s been copied and pasted from Wikipedia.
  3. Argue with yourself. Really. Talking to yourself while writing is a great way to produce natural work and will also open doors to fresh insights related to your essay. Challenge yourself; ask yourself questions, then think about clever conclusions.
  4. Stick to one topic. Don’t try to cover the entire Turkish Empire in one essay. Rather, focus on one specific point about that time period, and make it the center of your thesis.
  5. Draft an outline. Before you get writing, make a rough outline organizing your main thoughts and arguments into separate points.
  6. Skip introductions. You still need a great opening paragraph, but don’t get hung up about making that the first step in writing your paper. Jump in anywhere you’re comfortable, and write to your heart’s content. The opener can wait.
  7. Use paragraphs to your advantage. In writing a good college-level paper, it’s important to know how to feed information in small bites, to make the whole essay more digestible. Know when to end one paragraph and start a new one. Paragraphs keep your essay moving without breaking the flow of the train of thought.
  8. Write. Erase. Repeat. Even the most accomplished writers make mistakes- they just don’t publish them! Get used to forming and reforming sentences, correcting mistakes, and then having second thoughts…
  9. Keep it natural…Forget everything your high school English teacher taught you in class. Writing should be an extension of your natural voice. Don’t try to put together cleverly-concocted yet grammatically correct prose. Just write it the way you would say it.
  10. And keep it fresh! College university professors have to read hundreds of papers each year. Want to get his attention? Give him something interesting to read, something unexpected. Avoid the tried-and-true safe thesis topics, such as “Why recycling can save the world,” and come up with a unique idea that’s all your own.
  11. Quote sources. Never ever plagiarize, and always reference an idea that’s not your own. Pick a system of footnoting, and stick to it.
  12. Cite lectures. Mention other college professors in your paper, and you’re bound to get a better grade.
  13. Put it all together now.  A conclusion isn’t a summary of what you just wrote. Rather, a true college-level essay finishes with a paragraph that expertly ties all the loose ends together into one neat little package.
  14. Proofread! This is one of the most important yet overlooked steps in writing your college paper, and the reason why you should never to attempt to complete a whole college essay the day before it’s due. Put your work aside, and return to it several hours later. You’ll get a fresh perspective of your work, and any corrections that require editing will jump right out at you.

Your turn!

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

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If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, twitter, or Facebook.

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Ace College with these Simple Studying Tips

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Ace College with these Simple Studying Tips

As a new college freshman, you’ll probably figure out quickly that college is a different world. You may have aced your classes in high school and been the big fish in the pond, but welcome to college!! Why, you ask, is college so hard? In high school, your teachers spent class time transferring material over to you, whereas in college the motto is “You’re grown and on your own.”

Ace College with these Simple Studying Tips

College professors spend a tiny miniscule fraction of their time explaining the course material, and the rest of their time waiting for you to do independent studying and trying to figure out exactly what’s expected of you in order to get a passing grade. Nice right?

With the right studying tips you can manage college and stay the course (no pun intended).

Studying for college is about time management, study space, prioritizing, and finding your learning style.

Let’s go through each one:

Time management

Organize and schedule your daily tasks in a day planner. Pick the time of day when you are able to concentrate the best. It doesn’t take rocket science to fill up your gas tank or do beer bongs, so save those tasks for “brain dead” time, and reserve study periods for peak performance times of the day when you’re most in the game.

Study space

There are a few theories about picking a studying space in your college dorm or at home. Some believe that alternating homework spots helps your brain retain information.

Others believe that a fixed studying area allows you to relax in familiar settings and is conducive to concentrating. Regardless of where you decide to “get into the zone” when cramming for exams, make sure the area is free of noise and distractions.

Some college students unplug their phones and choose an area where they know visitors cannot pop in unexpected. A well-lit calm area is also important for a good learning environment.


Sort your subjects according to difficulty, and schedule more time for the challenging college courses.

Be careful not to burnout out by studying too much at once. Take a break every few hours. You can reward yourself with an ice cream or a pizza after a particularly challenging study session.

You can also “sandwich” easier subjects between difficult ones, giving your brain a break and increasing your chances for better learning and memory retention.

 Know your learning style

There are three main types of learning styles; visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, or “VAK.”

Visual is seeing, auditory is hearing and kinesthetic is hands-on or touch based.

Grades K-third grade uses kinesthetic learning, while fourth grade through eighth grades employ visual learning styles.

Beginning in 9th grade and through college, auditory teaching styles (lectures) and visual learning (linguistic and spatial) are the ideal.

Visual-linguistic college students learn by reading and writing tasks. They learn by what has been written down, and have good memory retention for the written word. They find language fascinating and express themselves well. They learn best when using spoken or reading materials.

Visual-spatial college course learners think in terms of pictures. They learn best when using written, modeled, or diagrammed materials, as well as visual media. They learn holistically instead of sequentially, and use intuition to solve problems. Visual aids are the best type of materials for these college students.

Kinesthetic learners study through touching and moving. They tend to lose concentration if there is no external stimulation. Kinesthetics like to get the “big picture” and usually have difficulty recalling what was said or seen. They learn best through a hands-on approach to college studying, and need frequent breaks.

Using good studying habits will help make your college journey manageable. Remember to keep your eye on the ball and graduate successfully. Hang in there!

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