Whether you're reading your Biology textbook or "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", taking notes can be overwhelming. Many students find themselves writing too much or too little resulting in a loss of time and frustration. However, taking notes doesn't have to be complicated. When done right, it is an efficient and simple method of studying. You can master the skill that will help you make the grade. Just keep it simple and consider these six steps when reviewing each chapter.

Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Avoid access to computers, music or anything that can distract you from your reading. Staying fully focused on the task at hand helps your mind retain and understand the chapter's content.

Read thoroughly. Take your time and remain conscious of what you are reading. Use context clues for any part of the text that is difficult to understand. Ask yourself what is the topic or purpose of this chapter? Consider the answer as you read along.

Take your highlighter and highlight answers to the basic questions who, what, when, where, why and how. Then, highlight any key words and definitions included within the text. For novels, mark all major events and turning points while trying to identify the purpose behind the chapter.

Write these points down in a notebook. If it is a literary book, create a timeline of what took place and make note of your interpretation of the author's tone. Include why you think they used that tone. If it's an academic book, write down the name of each chapter and take notes based on the basic fundamentals of each concept.

Review your notes by reading over them several times and considering their meaning. Make sure they make sense. If you find yourself confused, go back and reread the section your notes were based on and try to break down the section into your own words.

Test your knowledge. Can you summarize what you just read? If your notes enable you to explain the subject then they have served their purpose in helping you understand the chapter.


Avoid shortcuts like Spark Notes. While the website is a tempting resource for notes on long novels, it is not a substitute for reading the actual chapter. Teachers often ask questions that require specific details you will not find on an online summary so read the chapter if you're going to be tested on the material.


If you are reading a book with dense material, it is often best to read through the chapter from beginning to end first, then go back and reread it, highlighting any key points you see.

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