How to Take Effective and Structured Lecture Notes

Pre Med Students

Lectures in medical school can range from incredibly interesting (and even fun!) to monotonous, boring, and difficult to understand. Note-taking is one of the best ways to keep yourself engaged in the lecture and ensure that you are getting all the knowledge you need for later study and review. Below are some tips for creating effective, structured notes that will serve as a solid study tool for the entirety of your school years. 

Start with the Right Supplies 

Before you go to your lecture, make sure you have all the tools you need to take notes for the duration. At the very least, you will need paper and a pencil or pen, but there are a few specific things you can use to make sure the end result is a structured, easy-to-read study tool. Some recommendations include:


  • College-ruled or graph-ruled paper. In medical school lectures, you’ll be given a lot of information in a very short period of time, so you’ll find yourself writing a lot. Using college ruled paper – or even graphing paper – will provide you with ample space to capture more information on a single sheet. Graphing paper is also excellent for creating structure in your notes so that they are more aesthetic and easy to read later. 
  • Colored pens or highlighters. Though any pen or pencil will certainly do in a pinch, investing in a set of colored pens or even colored highlighters can help you create structured lecture notes in which each topic is easily discernible at a glance. You can highlight or write your major topics in one color, then highlight your subtopics in another, and then use another color to highlight definitions, for example. 
  • Notebooks, divided binders, and/or folders. Now that you have the tools you need to take your notes, you’ll need a way to organize them. Options include utilizing a different notebook for each course, purchasing a specific folder for each course, or even utilizing a divided binder. The latter option is often the simplest as you can carry everything with you to every lecture and never find yourself without the proper folder or notebook. 


What Should You Write?

If you’re not lucky enough to have a professor who either writes notes as he or she lectures or maybe tells you what you should write down, note-taking can get a bit confusing, to say the least. You certainly can’t write everything down, so here are some tips for taking notes that you can actually use later. 


  • Listen carefully and use a voice recorder. No matter how hard you try, capturing everything your professor says is going to be a serious challenge. A voice recorder will come in very handy since you can go back and listen to the lecture as many times as is necessary. During the live lecture, if you don’t have time to write out important information, make a note reminding yourself to go back and listen to that part of your recording again later. 
  • Document things that you don’t already know. There’s not much point to taking notes on things you already know and feel comfortable with, so listen closely for terms, words, subjects, and topics that are new to you or difficult to understand and take notes on those. If they tie into information you already know, be sure to jot down how so that you can get a better understanding later. 
  • Annotate your textbook. Simply using a highlighter, pen, or even a pencil to annotate right inside your textbook is much quicker than rewriting sentences and phrases, but before you do this, consider whether you’re planning to sell your textbook – or even whether you’re using a rented one. Marking in textbooks will reduce their resale value.


Finally, another option that can help you (and other students in the lecture) a great deal involves creating a study group or meetup after the lecture to share notes and discuss the topics that were presented. The new perspectives are important for learning about new material, and everyone can benefit from seeing someone else’s notes from the same lecture. 

Can Question Banks Help You Get More out of Your Lectures?


Medical students attend hundreds of lectures during their school years, but many of them struggle to truly understand the topics being presented. If you’re not an auditory learner, then this may sound familiar to you. Fortunately, there are several resources available to help you get more out of your lectures, and online question bank software is one of the best. 

What is an Online Question Bank?

Question banks, often referred to as “qbanks” by students, are software platforms that offer you numerous multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and more to help you adequately prepare for your medical licensing exam. When choosing an online question bank platform, look for the following:


  • The number of MCQs. The more MCQs the software contains, the more topics and subtopics they will cover. In this case, aim for a platform that offers you thousands of questions in all the major topics you’ll find on your exam. 
  • The quality of the MCQs. Not all multiple-choice questions are created equal, and some are certainly better than others. Make sure the questions were all written by actual medical professionals for the best possible results. 
  • Study features. Finally, if you want to get more out of your lectures with the help of a question bank, make sure your chosen software offers study features. Some of the best include “tutor mode,” which allows you to learn at your own pace, as well as the ability to take your own notes and attach them to individual questions for later study. 


How to Use a QBank to Enhance Lectures

Now that you know what a question bank can do for you as a medical student, it’s important to understand some of the best ways to utilize it specifically for your lectures. There are two methods, and you can choose to utilize just one of them or both alongside numerous other tips for better recall and comprehension. 


  • Pre-lecture preparation.  Many medical students find it helpful to take some time to prepare for lectures by reading their textbooks and reviewing their course materials. Believe it or not, medical qbanks can be a great preparation tool, too. Create a mock exam or tutoring session with only questions relating to the topic that will be presented in your lecture and see how much of the material you already know. Then, go back to the questions you missed, read the answers and explanations, and do a little research on the things that stand out to you. 
  • Post-lecture review. You might also choose to use a question bank to review the material that was presented to you during your lecture. The method is the same; create a mock exam or tutoring session containing MCQs on the lecture topic, answer the questions, and then review your answers. 


Many students find it interesting to use the online question bank software for both pre-lecture preparation and post-lecture review. Later, they can compare the results of the two sessions and truly gauge their learning. 

Online question bank platforms are by far one of the most flexible and useful tools out there for preparing for your medical licensing exams. They’re far more than just mock exams, though – they’re perfect for studying, tracking your progress, and even preparing for and reviewing your lectures.