Taking notes is essential to studying. You can’t go back and look at information when you didn’t record it well. Here are three tools that will help you take better notes to make your studying more efficient.
This feels obvious, but it can be more complicated than it seems. Students often lose track of a notebook, are unable to find needed information, or incapable of deciphering what was written. Date each page of your notes and give it a clear headline that quickly indicates what topic the page covers. Put each subject in a separate notebook so that you don’t mix classes. If you forget a notebook and write your notes elsewhere, as soon possible, rewrite or attach the notes in the correct notebook. You don’t want to be frantically looking for that page the night before an exam.
Using color is especially helpful for visual learners, but it can be useful for any note taker. Using color does’t just mean highlighting. Use colored pens or pencils to call out specific sets of information. For example, circle every important date with a red pen, underline significant equations in green, box keywords in yellow. Then, if you are looking for a specific piece of information, you will know exactly what to look for. Your brain will associate colors with certain pieces of information improving your ability to recall important facts and concepts.
Don’t save studying your notes until a few days before the exam. Instead, review your notes every night. This will give you a chance to make sure you are staying organized, you can color code your notes, draw helpful pictures, and expand on information that may seem lacking. The longer you wait to do this, the harder it will be to clarify notes that may be confusing or track down notes that are missing. Research also shows that reviewing a small amount every day is much more helpful in cementing information in your brain than cramming. A little review every day makes it easier to recall material while taking an exam.
When you take notes you don’t want to regurgitate information. Make connections, figure out key concepts and engage with the material. Putting in a small amount of effort initially can make your studies go faster and be more productive in the long run.