How to take notes to optimize your studying time later on! Definitely the best tips for note taking in college.

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Wacom and Her Campus Media. I received the product free of charge. All words and opinions are my own.

Between classes, clubs, organizations, jobs, internships, relationships, friends, family, and somehow finding time to eat… you’re a busy person. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a challenge to juggle everything that college life throws at you.

I’ve asked my friends what is the one thing that they struggle with juggling right now, and the answer was unanimous: studying.

Most college students do crazy things for good grades. Spending all day in the library without a break, chugging 5 cups of coffee to in a row to help them stay alert, and even pulling all nighters right before a test.

I’m going to tell you a secret: that isn’t necessary.. or good for you. You need sleep, less dependence on caffeine, and study breaks and time to relax.

I believe that the key for acing a test easily starts with how you take notes. Taking notes that provide maximum ease for studying and information retention are the most important thing.

Here is how I take notes to help me ace exams:

Step 1: Type the Notes


Hold up, I know what you’re about to say: “but wait, isn’t there science saying that hand writing notes helps you memorize them better?” yes, there is. However, that is not true with everybody.

Personally, I hate hand writing my notes. My hand writing is sloppy, I write a lot slower than I type and often a lot slower than the professor talks, and I know that I will never go back and review the notes after I’ve taken them unless I type them.

This gives you two options to try out:

1. Type the notes onto your laptop while in class.

2. Hand write the notes in class and then re-write them into your laptop after class. 

Either way, having a digital copy of your notes helps boat loads.

If you’re really set on hand writing your notes, I highly suggest investing in a tool that will translate this into type for you, such as the Wacom Bamboo Spark.


Step 2: Organize


I’ve talked a ton about how organization is key. In your notes, it’s no different.

I have met people who just write down everything in one black pen in a straight line filling an entire page, it makes no sense to me. Organize somehow.

1) If you’re typing: use headings to separate sections.

2) Bold, underline, italicize.

3) If you’re hand writing: use highlighters or colored pens to differentiate important material and sections.

Step 3: Copy Down Everything

Group Project 3Yes, your professor might put the PowerPoint online after the lecture is done… but be honest, are you actually going to go look at it? I won’t.

Do you want to have to download each lecture separately and then search through every single slide to find the info you’re looking for? I don’t.

Copy it down in your notes.

I have a friend, Mario, who made fun of me for typing all of the info from the PowerPoint into my notes while he hand wrote only the important info and the extra snippets that the professor added on into his.

Then we got together to study for our exams and his outlook changed. He saw how incredibly handy it was to have all this information in one place without having to flip through pages or PowerPoints or anything. He decided to put his notebook away and we used my notes to study, and then once the exam was over and we started lectures again he was copying down everything on the PowerPoints into his notes like I was.


Step 4: Visualize

How to take notes to optimize your studying time later on! Definitely the best tips for note taking in college.

I am a visual learner. Whenever a professor uses a chart or diagram to explain something in class it helps me understand it a boat load.

There are two ways that you can incorporate these into your notes if you are typing them:

1) Download the PowerPoint, copy and paste the diagram into your notes.

2) Draw it.

Wait, draw it? But you’re on your computer?

Yep. This is where my favorite tool for visual people comes in: The Wacom Bamboo Spark.

Spark GadgetPocket 2 g

The Bamboo Spark is perfect for incorporating diagrams, drawings, and other visuals into your class notes.

Simply turn on the Bamboo Spark, draw what you want to save, and then press the page button to send it to the cloud.

When you are reviewing your notes the following day (do this, it helps!) or when you have time during or after class, simply log onto the Wacom cloud on your computer through Evernote or Dropbox, download the image, and insert it into your notes.

Seriously, it’s that simple and that powerful.

wacomdefault2I’ve been amazed at all the things this little Bamboo Spark can do. It’s so small that I carry it with me to class without any effort, and it’s the perfect way to combine anything that needs to be hand written into my digital notes.

I’ve also found that this is fantastic for any design projects that I have. As a Communications major I deal with a wide variety of projects and presentations. Right now in one of my classes we are creating our own mock business and we have to make everything for it including a logo and business card. The Wacom Bamboo Spark was a big help during this project because it allowed me to create designs by hand on paper and save them digitally to my phone and laptop.

wacomdefault1One time I was stuck at work late and had to run straight to class afterwards with no time to stop at my dorm room to grab my supplies for class. All I had on me was my phone. Luckily my group was working on that project and all the design ideas were saved on my phone from when we used the Bamboo Spark during the last class so we used those. It was great, I still looked prepared so I did not get marked down and we were able to get a lot of work done.

Another cool thing about the Bamboo Spark: It is pretty good at turning handwriting into text, so if you really want to hand write your notes, the Bamboo Spark will turn it into text for you!

Step 5: Review

The whole purpose of taking notes this way is to make sure that they are optimized to make your studying as easy and efficient as it possibly can be.

I have found that by using this method to take notes makes my studying and reviewing a breeze, I rarely have to spend an extensive amount of time searching for or reviewing the material as it is right there as clear as day.

I’ll be sharing my top tips for studying with this method in my next post, so keep an eye out for that!


How do you take notes to optimize your studying time?



How to Take Notes to Optimize Studying Time

13 thoughts on “How to Take Notes to Optimize Studying Time

  • March 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I prefer typing my notes too, but never thought of drawing parts of it and then inserting that into the notes, smart!

  • March 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    That looks like OneNote you’re using, love it. Though I have to say I like hand writing my notes to help me memorize them but OneNote is pretty nice too.
    I’ve never herad of the Bamboo Spark before, that’s kinda cool!!!

    • April 3, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      Yes! OneNote is the BEST! I have an old post featuring some great uses of OneNote and I’m hoping to post another about it soon to point out some more great features.
      The Bamboo Spark is super handy, I recommend checking it out.

      • March 10, 2018 at 2:12 pm

        Dani, I love your idea of writing everything down numerous times and in different ways. When I was in college many years ago this helped me tremendously to ingrain the information into my memory banks for real retention. Your post should prove helpful to anyone who must optimize their studying including those that are no longer college students as well.

  • March 25, 2016 at 12:43 am

    My note taking process is a lot like yours. In class, I type up everything. I type everything from the powerpoint and any extra information the professor shares to deepen the understand of the content. The same day I pull out my notebook and I rewrite everything but in my own words so I can remember it. I color code and make diagrams. Then when it comes time to studying I highlight and add notes from the book or review sessions with a different pen color. It’s a lengthy process, but works for me! I wish I had the Bamboo Spark for my biology lecture, it would be super useful!

    • April 3, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      I used to type during class and then rewrite in my notebook (color coding OF COURSE!) afterwards, but it quickly became so difficult for me to keep up on that. How do you make sure you do that every time?

  • March 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I like this a lot! Everyone says to hand write notes but I hate doing that, finally someone who agrees with me, LOL.
    Thanks for the tips, totally going to try these.

    • April 3, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Handwriting is great in some instances, and for some people, but I just personally type faster than I write so it works for me!

  • April 4, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I agree with everything! Especially step 3, taking down notes always made memorizing easier for me 🙂

  • August 21, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Everyone always acts like I’m completely ridiculous when I shorthand, then re-write, then type up, but seriously it helps so much with retention. I type a lot faster than I write, too, but I absolutely cannot bring myself to hand-write something I’ve already typed. I’ve been looking at that gorgeous piece of machinery you’ve got for quite a while now, since it seems to be the best of both worlds, but sadly I’ve got a paper-planner-and-a-scanner type of budget! XD

  • March 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for the article) The best way of taking notes for me is using Google Keep. I installed it on my smartphone and use it on phone and notebook. It’s very convenient.

  • July 11, 2017 at 2:28 am

    I’m not that great of an organizer but I can take down notes pretty good. Thanks for sharing this! I hope others can learn from your post.

  • November 23, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    I love your copy everything down tip! A lot of my classes put the notes online and I do look at them occasionally, but certainly not every class. Writing everything down ensures that you’re going to see the information at least once!


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