Speed Writing in Lectures

Keeping up with fast talking instructors is a universal challenge for college students. Below are 8 strategies to speed notetaking in class and increase chances of getting valuable lecture information in notes.  As you practice using these 8 strategies for speed writing, the pace at which you record notes will increase and you will have more time to listen.

Use Symbols to Replace Words


Symbol Word that is replaced Symbol Word that is replaced
= equal > greater than, more than
¹ not equal < less than
& or + and $ money, dollars, value, cost
w/ with vs versus, against, opposed
w/o without   increasing, improving, rising
* important ¯ decreasing, worsening, falling
** very important c hundred
    m or k thousand

Use Abbreviations Instead of Whole Words


Abbreviation Word that is replaced Abbreviation Word that is replaced
eg for example psych psychology
mx maximum cond condition
mn minimum exp experience
dept department subj subject
ed education glycolysis gly
id identity micro microbiology

Use First Syllables Instead of Whole Words


First Syllable Word that is replaced First Syllable Word that is replaced
pol politics sys system
bio biology env environment
eng engineering org organism
carc carcinogenic rela relationship
comp comparison, compare chem chemical

Use First Letters Instead of the Whole Words

This is especially useful when a main idea or key word is repeated many times during a lecture.


First Letter Word that is replaced
M metamorphosis
C capitalism
D determinism
G government
D democracy

Omit Vowels from Words


Voweless Word Word that is replaced Voweless Word Word that is replaced
bkgnd background cnsnt constant
estmt estimate isltn isolation
rdng reading frdm freedom
prprd prepared lrn learn
prblm problem smmry summary

Use a "g" Instead of "ing" or "n" Instead of "tion"


Word Ending Word that is replaced Word Ending Word that is replaced
distractn distraction natn nation
orderg ordering compromisg compromising
maintaing maintaining regulatg regulating
bldg building conventn convention
constitn constitution segregatn segregation

Use Numbers and Letters to Replace Syllables


Shortened  Word Word that is replaced Shortened Word Word that is replaced
cooper8 cooperate oper8 operate
methio9 methionine 4est forest
cre8 create nfatu8 infatuate
42n8 fortunate 2way two-way
4n foreign cson season
b4 before n2ition intuition

Condense by Recording only Key Words

Example lecture:

Today we are going to talk about Behavioral Learning Theories of which there are three.  In general, Behavioral Theorists focus on observable behavior.  One theory of learning based on behavior is Pavlovian Conditioning or Classical Conditioning.  This involves a reflexive response associated with a new stimulus.  For example, a reflexive response of a dog when he sees food is to salivate. In Classical Pavlovian Conditioning, we can teach a dog to salivate when a bell rings, a new stimulus, by teaching a dog to associate a ringing bell with food.

Another Behavioral Learning Theory is Observational Learning.  This occurs when behavior is imitated by another.  This behavior is easily seen in children as they imitate parental behavior whether it is desired behavior or not.  For example, if children hear parents swear in a moment of anger, it is not unusual to hear children add those words to their burgeoning vocabulary.

A third Behavioral Learning Theory is called Operant Conditioning.  This involves taking a voluntary response, desired behavior, and strengthen it using reinforcements.  Potty training a child as an example.  Parents will praise a child, offer candy or other rewards to encourage repeated toilet use.”

Example of this lecture condensed in notes:

3 Behav. Lrng theories  

1. Pavlovian/Classical - assoc. Reflexive resp. w/ new stim.

     Ex - dog salivates when hears bell = assoc. W/food

2. Observational - imitate others we see.

     Ex. - dad swears and son picks it up.

3. Operant - volun. resp.(desired behav.) strengthen w/ rein.

     Ex - toilet training

You get better at that which you practice.  If you practice not doing these things, you will get better at that, also.


Dennis H. Congos, Certified Supplemental Instruction Trainer. University of Central Florida