Taking notes is a great way to remember important concepts your professor emphasized in class. Not only does taking notes help when preparing for an exam, but it also to forces you to listen more carefully during lectures. Also, taking your own notes allows you to put concepts in your own terms, making it easier for you to understand them.
Additionally, taking notes directly from what your professors are teaching can help you narrow down the vast amount of material to key concepts you’ll need to study later on. Usually, what your professor lectures about in class is what will show up on tests. Textbooks, on the other hand, tend to have a wealth of information, some which does not apply directly to what your professor is teaching. Pay close attention in class, as professors often give slight hints, or even explicitly tell you what will be on a test. Quality notes also help you feel more organized and prepared. Having a sense of organization will increase your confidence, which in turn will enhance your performance on test day.
There is no right or wrong way for students to take notes, but there are some helpful tips that can make note taking more useful for studying later on. You can develop your own style of note taking that is most effective for you. Browse the following tips to learn how you can take better notes that can make studying more productive.
Tip #1: Be prepared for class – Go to class prepared with anything you’ll need to take notes. Have a notebook dedicated to taking notes only for that class. Remember to have extra pens and pencils, and even highlighters so you can highlight important terms or concepts. Take a binder or folder where you can organize your notes or any handouts you receive during class. Ask your professor if you can set a tape recorder on your desk during class, so that you can revisit the lecture later on to determine if there was any important information you missed in your notes.
Tip #2: Learn how to be a good listener – To take effective notes, you need to have excellent listening skills and good judgment. During class, focus only on the instructor. Try not to be distracted by other students, and remember to turn your cell phone off. By anticipating and eliminating distractions, you will be able to better direct your attention. Remember, you do not need to write down everything your instructor says. It is your job to discern what is important enough to take notes on. When your professor stresses a key concept, not only will it likely be on the test as a direct question, but it could be the basis for solving several other questions on the same test. If your professor writes content on the whiteboard, it is probably important enough to jot down in your notes. Also, pay close attention to any charts or documents your professor presents, and whenever your professor presents an unfamiliar term or fact, write it down. If you are ever in doubt, it is probably a good idea to take a quick note.
Tip #3: Learn how to take notes in a way that is helpful to you – It is important that you develop a note-taking method that suits your learning style and works best for you. This may include using a notebook, flash cards, and even different colored pens to identify important terms. You should also use abbreviations when taking notes as opposed to writing full sentences, which is extremely time-consuming. You can even set up your own system for abbreviations and symbols. Put concepts in your own words so that when you go back to study your notes you will easily know what your instructor was discussing. Paraphrasing material is a great way to check your understanding of core concepts.
Tip #5: Compare notes with other students – Comparing notes with other students is an effective, yet underutilized strategy. Many students only ask to see other students’ notes when they’ve missed a class. By comparing notes with others, you gain perspective and see what other students in the class found to be salient information. Collaborating and discussing topics covered in class not only helps you to better understand content for an upcoming test, but it also gives you valuable insight about how other students have learned to succeed in classes taught by even the most demanding professors. Get to know some of the best note takers and schedule a time after class each week to compare notes. This is also an opportunity for you to test your command of the material by attempting to explain it to others.
Tip #6: Review, edit, and organize your notes – After class, it is a good idea to review your notes and make any edits necessary. Oftentimes, notes become messy and disorganized because you are trying to keep up with the professor during the lecture. It is worth the additional time to rewrite your notes in a more organized way. Also, research any terms or concepts you didn’t completely understand during the lecture. Additionally, in order to protect the content you’ve spent hours creating, you’ll need to keep your notes in an organized, safe place. Clearly label the binder or folder you are using for each class. If you are taking notes on your laptop, create a backup file on a zip drive in case your computer crashes the night before a test. Regardless of whether you take handwritten or electronic notes, you should date your notes and reference any chapters in your textbook that your notes correspond to for easy lookup later on.