Taking notes is essential to reviewing material and being able to perform well on tests, or write an excellent paper. This skill is especially important in college, when most classes are lecture style. Unfortunately, many students don’t have opportunities to learn to take notes before they go to college. Here are some tips you can put into practice so that you can take helpful notes.
Don’t copy verbatim. It is tempting to copy powerpoint slides, or try to keep up with your professor word for word. However, if you take notes this way, you are likely to miss important information. It also doesn’t require you to synthesize or make sense of the material. If you force yourself to pick out the most important concepts and relate them to other topics in your notes, you brain is more likely to remember the material.
Write it Out
Use paper and pencil. Scientific American cites studies that have found that typing notes makes it harder to remember the material than writing notes with a pencil and paper. As you write, you can color code, circle, underline, make mind maps, outlines, and diagrams. These methods of organization can be much more challenging on a computer.
Keep one notebook or a divided notebook for each subject. Keeping your notes all together will prevent you from frantically trying to find something the night before the exam. Write the date and topic at the top of every page so that you can look up a specific lecture or subject when you need to. Staying organized will make preparing for exams less stressful.
There are two reasons for reviewing your notes the same day you wrote them. The first is that the information is more likely to stay with you if you review it right away. That way, studying for an exam will be more like reviewing than relearning information you forgot. This also gives you a chance to make sure your notes are legible and make sense. You can fill in any gaps, make connections, or rewrite while things are still fresh in your mind. It is an awful feeling to look at your notes weeks later, and not understand what they mean.
Excellent note taking will lead to long term success in school. Practice your note taking skills before you go to college so that the lecture format will not be too challenging for you.