Note-taking skills

Note-taking skills

When taking notes, you don't need to write everything down. Here's some advice about how to capture the most important information while note-taking.

Why do we take notes?

Instead of writing everything down every time, using your own words, you should take note of the key information such as main ideas, supporting details and examples, dates, names and important connections between information (e.g. cause and effect). Remember to also listen to the speaker’s voice and intonation – these features can tell you how the person feels about what they are saying, or indicate when they are going to ask a question.

How can I write fewer words?

You do not need to write complete sentences in your notes. You can minimise the amount of words you have to write by omitting grammatical words (e.g. articles, prepositions or auxiliary verbs) and punctuation unless they are important to the meaning. You can also use abbreviations, acronyms and symbols instead of writing complete words.

What if I miss something important?

In L7, you will listen to each recording twice. If you miss something important the first time, mark the question somehow (e.g. by circling it), so you remember it. Then, when you listen for a second time, try to catch the answer that you missed. After listening for a second time, consolidate your notes and fill any gaps from your memory and knowledge. Make sure you write an answer to every question, even if you are unsure.

Note-taking styles

The Cornell method

In the Cornell Style of note-taking, you write “cues” (key words or headings) on the left, and make your notes on the right. This method is useful for university lectures because it is easy to find the information you need when revising your notes.


Most REW students will be familiar with mind-maps. Mind maps are useful because they make it easy to see the relationships between ideas. They are helpful for studying vocabulary and revising key information.

The linear method (outlining)

The linear method is one of the most common and popular methods of note-taking. You can use headings and subheadings to separate ideas and use indentations to show the difference between main ideas and supporting ideas/examples.


The “charting” style of note-taking uses charts (also called “tables”) to separate data. This method is good for comparison or categorisation. The charting style is helpful when preparing to write an essay or recording information about different topics in a lecture.

Topics and Subheadings: Prediction

In the L7 listening exam, the lecture will be divided into slides with different topics and subheadings. These words help you to understand what kind of information you will hear on each slide. 

Before you listen, you will be given time to read the slides. Use this time to predict what you will hear in the lecture, and on each slide. What do you think will be the main idea? What kinds of information will you hear about on each slide? What kinds of words, expressions and ideas do you expect to hear?

The knowledge you already have about the topic will help you guess what kind of words and information you might hear and activate the vocabulary you already know so you can better understand the lecture.

For more information about prediction and other listening strategies, visit the British Council website.

Where can I find extra listening practice?

Under the MyStudies tab of your MyRMIT page, you will find “ILC1 – Online ILC”. Follow this link to find lots of extra listening practice:

  • 4. Packages and 5. e-Learning Centre: These contain extra listening practice activities, including questions and answers.
  • 6. Learning Lab: Here you can find software for extra listening practice, including Road to IELTS (focused on IELTS listening tests), Clear Pronunciation and Star Pronunciation (focused on the sounds of English, including pronunciation, intonation, stress and connected speech).
  • Breaking News English: This is a useful website with lots of extra listening practice, including questions and answers. You can also practice “speed listening” and listen to different accents (North American and British English).
  • Study Support: Feel free to make an appointment with one of our Study Support teachers, who can help you prepare an independent learning plan for listening and develop your listening strategies. If you complete a package or extra listening activity, we can help you understand the answers.


  • Independent Learning Skills
  • Listening

Study with RMIT Training and RMIT University

Want to learn more about the pathways programs available? RMIT Training offers RMIT English Worldwide (REW) or Foundation Studies pathway programs.

To learn more about how these pathway programs are delivered visit: 

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.