6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study

The 6 Best Study Methods for College Students (With Examples!!)

Late nights become worth it when final product is success
Hard work always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.


With so many study skills out there, how do you know which ones are the best for you? No worries, after four years of trial and error, we’re gonna help you figure that out!

Here are the 6 best and most effective study methods for College Students.


1. Outline Method (Paper or Computer):

This method is pretty straight forward. Bust open the Google Docs, or the Microsoft OneNote, or Evernote, or Notability and start outlining what you’re learning in class. 


6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study



  • Good for taking down notes quickly 
  • Easy to edit 
  • Easy to organize 


  • Too Easy. Not enough active learning 
  • Brain doesn’t retain long term info 


2. Cornell Method:

This is the note method everyone talks about, but that’s only because it’s effective!

You divide your notes into 3 sections as outlined below:


6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study

It’s pretty straight forward as well:

Note-taking Section:

  • You take notes in class in note-taking section just as you would usually take notes in class

Cue Section: 

  • Write down questions in cue section right after class

These questions are meant for you to be able to review the material later. Meaning you review the question, try to answer it, and review the answer from your notes in the note-taking section.

This will also help you write reviewable notes the first time you write down the questions in the cue. For example, let’s say I have a ton of notes on bananas. I know it’s random but relevant! 

I would take my notes and try to have a question that’s relevant and that would help me quiz myself on the material. If I had a ton of notes on the characteristics of a banana, I would write out “What are the characteristics of a banana?” in the Cue section. As shown below: 


Cue: Notes: 
What are the main characteristics of bananas? Bananas 

  • Are yellow fruit
  • Have a peel 
  • Used in Mario Kart to trip racers 
  • Donkey Kong’s Favorite food
Summary: Bananas are a yellow peel covered fruit that Donkey Kong loves. Their peels are also used in Mario Kart to trip racers.


Summary Section: In this section write a summary of the material after you wrote down after class. This will help you review your notes as well as condensed overarching or large concepts. 


  • Reinforce actively reviewing the lessons 
  • Can act as awesome study sheets for midterm reviews 
  • Creates structure and organizes your notes 


  • Have to reflect through every lesson or topic
  • Questions can be time consuming to come up with 


3. Write-On-The-Slides Method (Printed Out or Saved onto Notes):

If you’re in a class where professors give you the slides in advance, this might be a great approach to jotting down your notes. 

What you’ll need to do is print out lecture slides or download them to your computer beforehand. 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study 6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


  • Always for you to focus on the professor’s lecture 
  • Only take notes on what’s explained from the slides
  • No need to draw or write everything the professor writes down or presents. 


  • Your professor HAS to provide the slides ahead of time (a lot of them might not).
  • If you don’t have a laptop, this can eat at your ink/you have to print them out all the time 
    • Hopefully your school provides you with free prints. 


  • Look at lecture slides beforehand and take written notes on them, then at lecture only fill in anything extra the professor says
  • Gives you neat, thought-out notes. Works great for general chemistry

This is probably one of our favorite effective study methods! College students should definitely take advantage of this. 


4. Flow Method (Paper):

This is the most relaxed and free form way of taking notes. You’re not trying to get every detail of what the professor says word for word. You’re trying to capture the BIG Ideas. Let me explain what that looks like. 

See here for this lecture. A nice chunk of info right? 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study

So as the professor explains a concept, draws out a mechanism, or shows a video, write out your outline to gather your own understanding of the idea. 

Your notes will look something like this: 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study



Remember, the point is NOT to transcribe the lecture. Writing EVERYTHING down is the FIRST mistake people make when using the outline method. The point of this study method is to condense and replicate the info in a way that makes sense in your head. 

You can include:

  • Diagrams
  • Boxes
  • Arrows
  • Tables
  • Comparison charts
  • Pictures 
  • Drawings (I Love Drawings)
  • or whatever else you like! 

It may look random or messy to others, but to you it should make perfect sense!

If you’re an OCD freak and just HAVE to organize it neatly, then you can also spend the extra 4 hours to organize your notes: 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


5. Concept Maps aka Mind Maps = Summarize Info 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


  • Easy to review 
  • Summarizes concepts well 
  • Great for visual learners
  • Especially useful right before a test


  • Looking at someone else’s concept map doesn’t help as creating your own
  • Helps you connect concepts together 
  • Not as comprehensive and detailed as other note-taking methods

Mind maps are a great way to summarize what you learned by mapping them out and organizing the concepts after class. Essentially, start with the big umbrella idea and branch into the smaller details (as shown above). 

This technique is usually better for summarizing and visualizing all the concepts you’ve learned throughout the quarter or semester. I would often see students doing this before a midterm or quiz, or even after to use as a review for the final.  

Studies show that memory retention and understanding is better when you make your own notes. It’s completely fine to brainstorm with others but be sure to make your own maps. 


6. Flashcards (Anki Cards)  

Have you heard of Quizlet? Well Anki is its ugly cousin. It’s almost overkill when it comes to the “best study methods in college” list. Why? Because med students use this for their INSANE exams.


6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


In case you’ve never heard of either, they’re both online flashcard programs that can help you make flashcards. However, they’re so much more than that! 

Especially Anki! Unlike other flashcard programs that randomly test you on whatever card you have on the deck, Anki gives you the cards you struggle with first! It uses spaced repetition to do this. Spaced repetition is essentially spacing out the cards you’re learning by different time intervals to improve your learning. 

6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


It reduces the frequency of the cards you see while also aggressively repeating the cards you keep messing up on. That’s what helps make Anki one of the most effective study methods for college students. 

Makes sense though. Why do you need to study cards you already know well? 

Don’t like how boring they look? There’s a cool site called MedShamim that can help make your cards look insanely beautiful


6 Best Note Taking Strategies in 2021 to Help You Study


So if you’re already a fan of physical flashcards, you might want to give these a try. Go Try Out What Works!Many times an undesirable grade is due to not approaching the class with the best study methods.

Experiment with different approaches to studying the material to find out what will be your best study method in college. With the philosophy down and one of these study techniques you trust, you should be ready to go! 



Like these posts? Give us a sub so I can update you when I’m done procrastinating on these articles.

By entering your email address you agree to get email updates from Chris and The College Lighthouse. I’ll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.