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Note-Taking Tips for Science Class

by Maggie McCormick, studioD

Taking good notes in your science class can mean the difference between mastering the material and not quite getting it. Your notes needn't be a verbatim list of the teacher's talking points, but they do need to cover the main points enough for you to study from them later. Good note-taking happens both in and out of the classroom.


The best method for taking notes is the one that works best for you. For example, you might remember things more easily if you simply write each statement as a bullet point or use the visual cues of the web created from mind-mapping your notes. According to the Santiago Canyon College STEM departments, the Cornell system is the best for taking notes in science classes. In this method, you mark off a 2-inch column on the left side of the page and a 2- to 3-inch row at the bottom. Most of your note-taking happens in the upper right hand side of the page. You then use the left side of the page to ask the questions that the notes on the right answer and the space at the bottom to summarize that page.


Science classes often make use of charts, diagrams and illustrations relevant to the topic at hand. If you focus on copying the drawing from the overhead screen, you may miss important material, but if you focus on writing down the notes about the drawing, you won't have that visual reminder later on. Muskingum University suggests bringing a copied version of charts and diagrams from the text book if you suspect the teacher will discuss it in class. You then can focus on the words while still having the drawing.

Key Phrases

Students often want to know whether the material the teacher is discussing will be on the test. In science, there are some key phrases you should listen for, according to the University of Alberta's suggestions on scientific note-taking. Listen for the phrases the teacher is using to interpret the data, such as "a result of this study ..." and "we can predict that ..." These are the conclusions you want to remember from the lecture.

Review and Copy

Once you leave the classroom, review and rewrite your notes as soon as you can while the information is still fresh in your mind. Most likely, the notes you took in class are a bit of a garbled mess. Rewriting them allows you to clean them up and put them into a format that's easy for you to study from. It also will show you where you might have holes in your knowledge. Fix this by researching on your own or asking your teacher to clarify.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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