We recently asked a number of college students: “What are the qualities of a good note-taker?” Among their answers, we noticed many that offered broader strategies that can help students increase their level of engagement and success in their college courses. Below, we’ve shared several of their suggestions. Take a look through what they had to say, and pass their tips along to any students who might need or appreciate these ideas from their peers!

Becoming an Engaged Learner: Ten Tips on Note-Taking, Studying, Participating, and More

1. “Read materials before class. Ask yourself, ‘What are the main ideas?’ Listen and watch for signal words. Ask questions to be actively engaged. Be selective and write down the main points with at least one supporting idea.”

2. “Good-note takers are attentive. They get to class on time and put all other distractions away while they are taking notes. They review their notes every night to have better retention of the material.”

3. “Always ask questions during class if you don’t understand something, and record every lecture, so you can go back and fill in your notes with information you might have missed during the lecture.”

4. “Highlight and look up what you do not understand. Always look for the words in bold they usually have a definition and are important points to remember. Paraphrase a lot; putting things in your own words helps.”

5. “Taking good notes is key to academic and professional success. Not only do the notes help you recall the important points of a lecture or meeting when it comes time to prepare for a test or write a report, the very act of writing the information down helps embed it in your memory.”

6. “The most effective note-taking is active, not passive. Active learning helps you to make meaning from what you learn: passive learning is allowing yourself to be an empty vessel into which knowledge is poured with no way of organizing or making meaning from it. You are less likely to remember things you learn passively.”

7. “Know that just taking notes is not enough. Read the textbook, and go to class to review. Don’t clutter your notes with information you already know. Make your notes easy to understand, because these are yours.”

8. “I believe that putting things into your own words helps to familiarize yourself with the topic being discussed.”

9. “Focus on understanding material, and make connections.”

10. “Once some of the learning activities and assignments are done, I’ve found that reviewing the notes and highlighted sections of the book will let me know if I need to rewrite my notes or highlight a little more of the text in order to give myself better items to study for any quizzes/tests.”

What does it take to become a more engaged learner? Ask your own students and encourage them to share their own ideas in the comments!