Improving Your Note Taking
Effective note taking is one of the keys to succeeding in school. Students should devote a considerable amount of time reviewing information discussed during classroom lectures. It is very difficult to remember specific details–event major concepts–from classroom lectures without good notes.
These note taking strategies will help you to take better notes:
- Make clear and accurate notes
Make sure to take legible and accurate notes since it is not uncommon to forget key details discussed during class after it has ended. Frequently, students comprehend the teacher's lecture and think they'll remember everything, so they neglect to jot down specific details only to find later that they can't recall what it was they needed to remember. Students who keep accurate notes can review them later to review key points, recall necessary detail, solidify knowledge and study up on concepts they didn't fully comprehend during the lecture. Additionally, since teachers frequently cover many topics during the course of their lectures, effective notes enable students to concentrate on specific topics that are most relevant.
- Come to class prepared
Students properly prepared for class usually take better notes than those who come unprepared. Proper preparation includes completing assigned reading prior to class and reviewing notes from previous lectures. Students who review their notes from previous lectures (1) will have a better context for learning new topics presented in the next lecture and (2) can ask questions about confusing concepts the didn't quite understand from the previous lecture.
- Compare your notes
To ensure your notes are as accurate and detailed as possible, compare them with the notes of other students after class is over. This is useful because your colleagues will frequently write down lecture details that you forgot or missed. This strategy will make classroom notes more thorough and precise.
- Minimize distractions
Effective note takers avoid classroom distractions. This can include sitting in spots with fewer distractions and not signing up for classes with friends that you might want to talk with during lectures. Some students will even sit in spots where it is difficult to constantly glance at the clock.
- Organize your notes
Notes organized by date, class, and subject make it easier to locate specific lecture details. It is also a good idea to keep information from different dates and classes separated or to begin each class with a new piece of paper. A good format for organizing your notes is the Cornell System for Taking Notes.
- Use abbreviations and symbols
Since teachers usually cover a lot of information during each lecture, it can be hard to write down everything important they say. This is why we recommend using symbols and that you abbreviate long words and use short phrases in your notes when possible. Many students use the following symbols and abbreviations while taking notes: & (and), w/o (without), eg (for example), ie (that is). When utilizing abbreviations, create a key of your most commonly used abbreviations, so you will not forget what they are.
- Write clearly
The most copious notes will be of no benefit if you can't read them. This is why it is important to use good penmanship when taking notes. It is also recommended that you leave space in margins and near key concepts in your notepad, so you can add important details relating to previous lecture topics that are addressed during future lectures.
- Review your notes
In order to retain information discussed during lectures, it is best to review notes immediately after class. This will help you better understand the lecture, your notes, and it will enable you to focus on what you just learned for long-term retention. You should review your notes a second time just before your next lecture. This will help refresh in your mind important topics and concepts, and prepare you for the next lecture. You should continue to review your notes on a regular basis between your lectures and your exams.
- Write down questions
No matter how intelligent a student is, from time to time they're bound get confused and end up having questions unanswered by the lecture. For this reason, it is a good idea to write down questions to ask after class, or during subsequent lectures. You can also answer your own questions through a web search, a tutor, other student or by using reference books–but only if you wrote down your questions in enough detail during the lecture.