For college students, taking notes is a skill that can be the difference between a passing grade and having to retake a class. Excellent note-taking helps to structure the content of the course, organize your own thoughts and insights about the material, and study for quizzes and tests in an effective manner. Here are a few strategies that can help you to become a world-class academic note taker.
1. Listen Carefully
Teachers and professors do not take kindly to having to repeat themselves — most college professors in massive lecture halls won’t even bother asking if the class has the information down. Careful listening also helps you to differentiate between extraneous facts and important knowledge; if a tangent does not fit in with the greater theme of the lecture, then it can probably either be skipped in the day’s notes or noted on the side of the page. Schools such as UC Clermont College definitely expect students to always be on their best behavior.
2. Structure your notes appropriately
Everyone has their own note-taking technique, but long pages of notes with no paragraph breaks or alignment are more difficult to read and can be hard to comprehend. Notes should be organized in an outline format, with topic sentences and major points closer to the left hand side of the page and minor points and tangents indented further right.
3. Color coordinate
Color coordination is another way to differentiate information, rather than have it be one messy mass of facts and data. Reserving the color red for dates, the color blue for facts, and the color green for authorial opinions may help the brain categorize information more assertively. Students can individually choose whether or not they want to use a highlighter, different colored pens, or post-it notes.
4. Rewrite notes frequently
The brain absorbs information better the more it is exposed to the information. This means that rewriting pages of notes can help actually transfer the information from the page to the brain. When you take notes in class, you are rarely actually thinking about the material — rewriting the day’s notes allows you to actually grasp the concepts instead of merely writing them down.
5. Use a notebook rather than a computer
This tip is obviously not universal, and many students have excellent reasons for preferring their laptops, but the brain cannot remember information as effectively when it reads the words on a screen. Typing also does not allow for similar recall strength as writing does. Writing down your notes also can help you better review and obtain different information.
Taking notes is a personalized pursuit and everyone does it differently, but there are certain structures and techniques that are indisputably better for your mental processes. Take these tips to heart, and your study sessions will prove to be easier and more effective than ever before.
About the author: Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.