Effective note taking in university and college can mean the difference between being at the top of the class and in the mid-range. For some reason, note-taking is not part of the general curriculum in high school, which means many students enter the college environment with a lack of knowledge around how to take effective notes. Learning how to write proper notes is an invaluable skill; however, it is easy to learn. Once you learn this skill, repetition will help you improve over time. There are many tried and true methods of note-taking. Here we discuss some of these approaches and how you can use them to enhance your study. Here are some tips to consider before attending class:
Before beginning class, your first step is to plan. If your professor has provided you with a syllabus, use that to become familiar with the topic or topics for that day.
Prepare further by taking the time to skim or read the required readings for that day. When you read the information about a topic before going to class, you are more likely to retain the information the professor introduces. You will already know the material, and you will know what to expect. In this sense, you will be prepared to engage with the content, which in the long term is going to help you with retention.
Although this may seem obvious, make sure that you prepare for class in a literal way. In other words, make sure you pack all the essentials: books, pens, pencils, and notebooks. You might also want to bring your laptop if that is something that you find helpful.
Packing water and a midday snack is a good idea. Snacks filled with good healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will ascertain that you are full. Water will help you stay hydrated so you will remain focused throughout your class.
Maintain a Positive Mindset
Before attending class, take some time to get yourself into a positive mindset. Maybe you meditate for 5 minutes or go for a short walk. Listening to music may be beneficial to some people. Regardless of what works for you, figure it out, and do it. When you attend class with a positive frame of mind, you will manage to retain more information.
Your brain will thank you later when you’re able to recall more material when you’re reviewing. When you’re in that positive mindset, you’re more apt to absorb the lecture.
Try Different Strategies
Once you’re ready for class, there are a variety of methods you can use to approach note-taking. Not every technique is going to work for each person, so try different ones and figure out what works best for you.
The first question to consider regarding note taking is whether or not you will use your computer.
Although the computer may seem like a faster way to jot down what the professor is discussing, research has proven that using a pen and paper assist with retention. Depending on your approach to learning you may choose either of these methods. However, if you’re easily distracted, it is recommended that you use the manual mode of taking notes using a pen and paper. Manually writing your notes will help you to avoid the tendency toward accessing the Internet or chatting with friends while in class on your computer.
Here are some effective note Taking Strategies
The Outline Method
To use the Outline Method, make five headings for topics you know will be covered in class. Under each heading make bullet points which include subtopics and information as provided in the professor’s lecture. This technique simple and straightforward. However, it can be challenging to review notes later if you choose this method. The best way to review notes if you are using this method is to quiz yourself by utilizing each topic before reading your notes. Take the recorded topic, then confirm your knowledge by reading your notes. Review what you do know in your head and then move on and read your notes. That will reinforce the information and keep it in your brain a little longer. For a simple break down on The Outline Method, check out
Oxford Learning’s blog on effective note taking
The second technique is Flow Notes. Flow Notes are a holistic method of note taking which includes active engagement with course material. Rather than merely taking notes and regurgitating the professor’s lecture on paper you are attempting to engage with the content by drawing arrows, doodles, and thoughts as you intake information.
If something in the lecture sounds familiar to you, make notes in the margins about the material you already know. This type of active engagement will assist with recall later on while you re studying.
For example, if your professor is discussing Marxism and you know that Marxism relates to class, write that in the margins of your notes. This technique will help you to recall information while you are studying. As you already have some information about the topic you are creating a tag for it in your mind so that you can recall it easily.
Make Use of Slide Notes
If you are lucky enough to have one of those professors who use PowerPoint slides, use the slides to your advantage. Making use of these notes is one of the easiest yet still effective approaches to taking notes. Print off the slides and bring them to class. As the professor or instructor lectures, take notes.
Try using the techniques offered above. Use the flow notes technique in combination with your slide notes to retain more material.
Using Your Notes to Study
Once you have mastered note taking, it is time to study.
Make sure you review your notes 24 hours after the time you’ve written them. After you finish your classes for the day, review your material within the day. Reviewing your notes soon after class, will help to solidify the information in your brain and make it easier to recall come exam time.
Second, rather than waiting for exam time to review your notes, make sure to go over them frequently. Avoid cramming. Reviewing your notes on a consistent basis will help you in the long run because information will become cemented in your brain.
A third tip is to make a note of repetition. When you’re doing your readings, have your notes next to you. If you notice a theme in the texts and your professor mentioned it in class, it will likely be on the exam. So, make a note of repetitions. Being actively engaged with your notes in this way will help you prepare for your exam.
Effective note taking cannot be underestimated in the realm of college and university. Learning how to take notes is a skill that is invaluable to a student. For more on this topic, please check out our
YouTube video Strategies for Effective Note Taking