Note taking is a tool that does not grow old. Learning to create effective notes would serve you well even in higher education or job meetings.
Feel like your notes are not good enough or just looking to upgrade your note taking skills? This guide will provide you with tips to do just that! Here are 5 tips to improve this skill set and better retain information for your academic and/or personal success.
- Prepare before class
Before you even go to class, make sure you’ve read (or at least browsed) all your teacher’s pre-assigned reading. Even if there is no required reading, attempt to become familiar with the topic before class, so you know what to anticipate.
Don’t forget to bring everything you’ll need to learn efficiently. If you plan to take notes on paper, make sure you have all your stationery and a notepad. For those who prefer laptops, ensure that you bring a charger or charge it beforehand.
- Understand the content
Effective note taking begins with understanding what the teacher is looking for. It’s simpler to grasp a lecture when you’re sitting there listening to it than it is to try to piece it together later from half-understood notes.
Consider what is being taught. What is the relationship between the various points? What connections can you make between the topics addressed in this class and those mentioned in prior sessions or in books you’ve read? Make sure you write down everything you’ve learnt about these linkages and interconnections in your notes. Always seek clarification in class if necessary. It will improve the value of your class notes when it comes to revision and assignment writing.
- Know what is important
Not everything that a teacher says will be tested. There will most likely be three or four primary points linked by a common subject, with perhaps half-dozen sub-points for each of them. Pay attention to the words, voice shifts and other nonverbal signals that the lecturer uses to express the session’s main themes. Don’t forget to include these in your notes because they are the most crucial.
- Be neat
Ultimately, notes are for you. Make sure that it is readable and understandable. Don’t try to jam too much information into a single page, or make your text so small that it’s unreadable. Use as much paper as necessary to explain all the topics in a clear and accessible manner. If diagrams, flow charts or mind maps help you make sense of your thoughts, utilise them.
In your notes, try to be consistent with the usage of acronyms and symbols. You can speed up your note taking by developing and using your own system of shorthand, but this is only effective if you can interpret that code later when you re-read your notes.
- Review it
Researches have shown that regardless of using laptops or paper to take notes, the retention time is similarly short if you do not review. Within hours of finishing the class, summarise the important concepts in your own words as much as possible. Re-reading your notes before the following session brings the process full circle and reinforces your learning and comprehension of the material.
Good note taking habits are important in situations beyond the academic setting. How do you write your notes?
For more tips to improve your studying life, check out our other articles!