Listening: Note-Taking Taking Notes

Listening Comprehension and Note-Taking

Summarising & note-taking

Taking notes

Taking notes is an important part of the life of every student. There are two main reasons why note-taking is important:

  1. When you are reading or listening, taking notes helps you concentrate. In order to take notes – to write something sensible – you must understand the text. As listening and reading are interactive tasks, taking notes help you make sense of the text. Taking notes does not mean writing down every word you hear; you need to actively, decide what is important and how is related to what you have already written.
  2. Notes help you to maintain a permanent record of what you have read or listened to. This is useful when revising in the future for examinations or other reasons.

Good notes should be accurate, clear and concise. They should show the organisation of the text, and this should show the relationship between the ideas.

How to take notes.

When you’re listening, first listen to the beginning of the text to find the main points and how they are related. Then listen for the subsidiary points; see how they are related to the main points and to each other. Then, reduce the points to notes. Make sure links and relationships between the ideas are shown.

Good notes need to be organised appropriately. There are two main methods for this:

1. List

The topic is summarised one point after another, using numbers and letters and indentation to organise information in order of importance. The numbers and letters can be used by themselves or in combination.


A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I,

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8,9,10,

(i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v), (vi), (vii), (viii), (ix), (x),

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i,

Or using decimals:

1.1, 1.2, 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3

For example:

  1. XXXX
  2. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
    3. XXXX
  3. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
      1. XXXX
      2. XXXX
      3. XXXX
    3. XXXX
      1. XXXX
      2. XXXX
  4. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
    3. XXXX
  5. XXXX
  1. XXXX
  2. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
    3. XXXX
  3. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
      1. XXXX
      2. XXXX
      3. XXXX
    3. XXXX
      1. XXXX
      2. XXXX
  4. XXXX
    1. XXXX
    2. XXXX
    3. XXXX
  5. XXXX

2.1. XXXX
2.2. XXXX
2.3. XXXX
3.1. XXXX
3.2. XXXX
3.2.1. XXXX
3.2.2. XXXX
3.2.3. XXXX
3.3. XXXX
3.3.1. XXXX
3.3.2. XXXX
4.1. XXXX
4.2. XXXX
4.3. XXXX


Example 1

2. Diagram

A diagram of the information shows how the main ideas are related and reflects the organisation of the information. You can use flow charts, pictures, tree diagrams, mind maps (Buzan, 1974), tables etc. You can also include circles, arrows, lines, boxes, etc.


Example 2Example 3Example 4Example 5Example 6

In both ways, you can use headings, underlining, colours, and white space to make the relationships clear. There is no generally best layout – it depends on what you like and your purpose. Some ways of taking notes are more appropriate for some topics. A description of a process suits a flow chart and a classification is shown clearly using a tree diagram. It is important to show how the ideas are the connected and how the information is organised. Advantages and disadvantages are easily shown using a table format.

Make sure you write down where your notes have been taken from. It will save you time when you need to check your facts or write a bibliography. In lecture notes, make sure you write down the name of anyone quoted and where the quote has been taken from. You can then find it if you want to make more detailed use of the information.


Try these exercise: Exercise 1,Exercise 2.

Notes are a summary and should therefore be much shorter than the original. Thus, abbreviations and symbols can be used whenever possible. The table below shows some conventional English symbols and abbreviations. You will need specific ones for your own subject.

and &
and others (people) et. al.
and other things etc.
answer A
approximately ≈; approx; c
at @
before example


centimeter cm
century C
chapter ch.
compare cf.
decreases, falls
degrees °
department dept.
divided by ÷; /
east E
equal to =
equivalent to
especially esp.
for example e.g.
governnment govt.
greater than


grows, increases
important N.B.
in one year p.a.
information info.
kilogram kg
less than


maximum max.
minimum min.
much greater than


much less than


multiplied by


north N
not come from
not equal notequal
not lead to not lead to
not proportional to not proportional
number No. or #
page p.
pages pp.




possibly poss.
probably prob.
proportional to not proportional
question Q
results from results from
results in, leads to leads to
same as above
similar to similar
that is to say, in other words i.e.
south S
unlikely ??
uncertain, not sure ?
very v.
with reference to re.
wrong X
west W
year yr.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email