Taking good notes is not an easy thing to do. Note-taking is an important skill which helps students actually learn. Perhaps, most of you do not know the best way to take well-structured and organised notes. Even if you already go to class and take notes, there’s always a technique to make the most of your classes. Here, we will discuss some great ways for taking notes like a pro.
Before Class: Advance Preparation
The most important part of note taking happens outside the classroom, getting a little idea in advance about the topic of the lecture will help you to decide what you need to write.
- Get familiar with the topic in advance: Make sure you familiarize yourself beforehand with the topic of the lecture. Since you already read the topic, you will have an easier time taking notes and following the lecture. Moreover, you will be reinforcing information you have already studied.
- Write down questions you want answered: Leave space to write the answers under each question either during or after the lecture.
- Review your notes from last class to get yourself in the mindset of the lecture.
During Class: Pay Attention and Listen Well
You should always come to class prepared with all the essential items you need. Make sure you are wide awake and eager to learn. Try not to come to class tired or hungry or in a bad mood.
- Going to class prepared and staying attentive is the most important thing for good notes. Plus, lectures are full of in-depth examples or anecdotes which help understand difficult material.
- Be an active listener. This means you must limit potential distractions, put your phone away, and focus completely on the lecture.
- Don’t rely on your classmate’s notes. Remember: note-taking is a reflection of how you think and his/her notes may not mean a thing to you.
- Only write down what’s important information and paraphrase of the lecture-there’s no need to copy word for word what the teacher says.
- Don’t write everything down. Pick out the most important information and paraphrase what the teacher says.
- Use abbreviations. You can make your own shortcuts to save time.
Methods: To take notes
Develop a note taking method that is best for you. You should choose the method you like most rather than copying someone else’s method because that method may not work for you.
a). Cornell Note-Taking Method:
This separates out definitions/important concepts from their definitions/explanations. Each page also ends with a summary section, which helps reiterate material.
Steps to use this method: You need to divide your note page into three sections:
- Create a (cue) column by drawing a wider margin (2.5-3 inches) on the left hand side of your page- When you are taking lecture notes, keep the cue column empty. Soon after the lecture reduce your notes to concise jottings as clues for reciting, reviewing and reflecting.
- The right hand side of the page is the note-taking area – Record the lecture as carefully as possible.
- Leave a margin (2”) at the bottom of the page for the summary section– Summarize each page of your notes in a sentence or two.
This system is especially helpful for science students! Concepts and information goes on the left and questions, ideas, and opinions go on the right.
Remember: If you are unable to follow a lecture there’s no harm talking to your mentor about it. Meet them after class or during office hours and explain your problem. Maybe they have a solution for your problem, it never hurts to ask.
After the Class: Revise your Notes
- Try to review and revise your notes within 24 hours- Studies show that if you review your notes within 24 hours of making it, your retention increases 60%. When you get home, you need to review. Also, you get the good chance to add the things to your notes which you might have missed.
- You can also make your study group and discuss the class material. Talking through concepts with others is indeed a great way to understand it. If you’re able to teach your classmates the material, that’s a great indication you know your stuff.
All the best!