Archive | November 2015


Taking good notes is one of the most important skills for success on the TOEFL (and for college) that won’t be directly tested.  El TOEFL que combina demostrar un gran dominio de tus habilidades simultaneas en lectura, tomar notas, escuchar y entender. Cada vez se hace mas necesario tomar notas correctamente y escrutinar, priorizar informacion requerida y no necesaria para aumentar el exito en cada pregunta en las secciones de speaking, reading, and writing. It’s not a bad idea to take notes on the reading section, but it will be absolutely critical in the listening, speaking and writing sections and integrated tasks, since many of these contain far more information than anyone could possibly remember in one sitting—unless you’re a genius.

Tip #1: Express ideas in few words

One huge error that people make when taking notes is being too careful. They write every word out completely, include small words like “the,” or even include full sentences. There is a clear problem with this approach: you simply don’t have enough time. But also, this can make it hard to find information later. Shorter notes are easier to search through. When you refer to them later, you’ll have no problem finding the information you need.

Tip #2: Use your own words (even in your own language)

It’s a bad idea in class, but when you’re in the middle of a test, no one cares whether you’re using exclusively English or not. If you can rephrase what you heard in fewer words in your own language, then do it! I’m not saying you should write entirely in your native language, but if you can express a thought faster, then that’s a good thing.

Tip #3: Keep moving

The speaker is going to be moving faster than you can write. If you think you are falling behind as you rush to write the last point that was made, it’s usually best to stop that thought in the middle and move on. It’s much easier to remember that partial thought later than to miss a portion of the lecture and have to figure out what the speaker’s talking about now and why.

Tip #4: Use symbols

Never write the word “circle” if you can simply draw a circle. Cause and effect can be shown with arrows. “Decrease,” “fall,” “short,” “cheap,” or even “worse” can all be shown with a down arrow. There are many, many other symbols, of course—use whatever you can think of that’s shorter than writing words!

Tip #5: Only note big ideas and key relationships

Your notes should be structural. In other words, you don’t want to include every detail that’s spoken. You want to hear every detail, of course, but you only have to write the big ideas that help you to remember the small ones. If you try to write everything, you will have trouble keeping pace, and you will not hear some information because you’re still writing the previous details. Make note of relationships between ideas like examples, comparisons, contrasts, and cause and effect. Note when the topic changes. But don’t write every name, date, and location you hear.

Tip #6: Practice, practice, practice!

Note-taking is a skill, and it needs to be practiced. Take notes from whatever media you have: a TV show, a TED talk, the book you’re reading, or even a conversation with a friend. Pay particular attention to listening and writing at the same time without getting behind in either.


When you compare conversations to lectures, there are a couple of advantages. Conversations are usually much shorter (just a few minutes long). The subject matter may be academic or non-academic, so you’re more likely to get a topic that you already know something about. And best of all, if you miss something one speaker says, the other speaker’s response will probably give you a clue as to what you missed. Whereas in lectures it’s important to understand as many words as possible, the conversations reward people who may not get every word, but who are good at interpreting implied information, idioms, and tone of  voice. On the other hand, you have very little time to figure out what’s going on, as the structure of a conversation moves very quickly and doesn’t usually return to a point made at the beginning. What’s more, the greater emphasis informal language requires you to know a different vocabulary set than the rest of the lectures and readings of the TOEFL require.


Taking notes on a conversation may seem very easy in comparison to your practice lectures, since it’s almost possible to write every detail. You may even be tempted to do just that, simply because you can. But as I said above, conversations are less about explicit content than implied content. If you’re writing furiously throughout the recording, you’ll miss important nuances that are bound to be in the questions. The notes below are on the practice recording found in ETS QuickPrep Volume 3. Listen to that conversation as you look through the notes below. Then try taking notes using each of these methods in turn, so you can choose and adapt one so it works best for you.

People: student, registrar

S. bring form–4 dip.

R. (checks PC). grad OK…?  warn on rec.

R. required—cred. need plan. Sent letters b4, don’t now.

S. met chair. prof said okay.

R. PC = reliable.

S. bas. courses. no int. chair: field work = int. clssmates for req.s. Him for xtra

R. But not int. course

S. No grad?

R. Don’t worry. tell chair talk to reg. Do soon. wait = can’t help.

Notice that there are few full words (and definitely no sentences!) in those notes. If they’re hard to understand then that’s good. Nobody needs to understand them except you, and you only need to understand them for a few minutes. In fact, I made the notes above long compared to what you might write during your actual TOEFL. Be sure you don’t spend the whole time writing. Remember that you need to listen enough to understand the bigger ideas and implications.

THE OTHER METHOD = The truth is that it’s pretty similar to what’s above. Only instead, of writing in one column, alternating between R. and S., you will write in two columns. On the left side will be one speaker, and on the right side will be the other. This helps you keep straight who said what without always including the speakers identity at the beginning of the line. Some test-takers have trouble doing the two column approach, though, and prefer to just keep it organized in one up-and-down column. That’s fine. But try both to find which is more efficient for you!


1) Take notes on what you don’t understand or didn’t know. Then, use that to write out your S.M.A.R.T. TOEFL study plan to hit your goal TOEFL score. Include exercises to improve your weaknesses and describe how you’ll study.

S: specific, M: measurable, A: actionable, R: results oriented, and T: time bound. 

2) About 20 to 30% of our students succeed with this TOEFL strategy however, need more help, practice, and guidance to earn their goal TOEFL score.  Remember that everyone takes notes differently, so you don’t have to have the exact same words in your notes as we do throughout this exercise, but your notes should be similar. With this method of taking notes, you’ll be focusing on writing the subject, verb, and object of key sentences. These notes will lead you to more correct answers on the listening section and better comprehension when you’re forced to guess. Without good notes, you will earn a lower, sometimes much lower.

Part 1 = Listen to the lecture and take notes by yourself naturally. Then, look at our notes and compare. How are they different? How are they similar? This is just to warm you up and give you a sense of where you are in your current ability.

Listen First – Audio Picture in part 1 = 

Compare Notes =   Notes6

Part 2 = Now, listen to our paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the transcript of the lecture and how to take notes on it effectively. Take your time. Listen to the lecture and our lessons over and over again if you need to. Rushing does not lead to improvement; it leads to stress and failure. And, this is where you’re going to be doing the most score improving work.


LISTEN – Audio Picture in part 2 = 


LISTEN – Audio Picture 2 in part 2 = 


LISTEN – Audio Picture 3 in part 2 = 

Part 3 = It’s time for an overview of how what you’ve learned translates into good note-taking ability. Listen to our explanation of our notes and the way to easily test if your note-taking is effective. Good luck! Know that if you make sure to apply this on your next TOEFL, you just improved your TOEFL score.

Notes 1

LISTEN – Audio Picture in part 3 =

Part 4 = This is the moment of truth. It’s time to put all of your knowledge to the test by listening to the lecture again and taking notes one more time. You should notice a difference in the way your brain now listens to the lecture. You should also notice that your notes are much closer to our example notes.

Listen First – Audio Picture in part 4 =

Compare Notes = Notes compare

Thanks to the following sources:   –  –