Lately, I have come to the realization that many times students struggle (including myself) with exams or understanding the material in certain classes due to bad note-taking and lack of a focused and clear study guide. It seems that often when students take notes in class or notes from the book, they tend to focus on areas that are not that important which becomes very unhelpful to them as well as time consuming. The entire point of taking notes is to have a clear visual and an understanding of the given material without having to carry around a bunch of 25 pound books and then having to list through them to find a specific line to read or a definition to recall. Since this is becoming sort of an epidemic, I am here to give you some advice to help you ease your way into the course by developing great note-taking skills.
First, let’s all agree that copying word for word from the book does not work for everybody. Sometimes the way an author may explain or define something might seem like they are using a completely different language. So what would be the point of you jotting down their exact words? Instead, try to understand the straightforward meaning of their words and write it down in your own words.
Second, another extremely helpful method is to use different markers, pens or highlighters when taking down notes. During a lecture many of us don’t have time to organize our notes due to the fact that we must consistently write things down until our hands feel like they are about to fall off. With the use of the highlighters or markers, you can set up a system of colors in which you know what area relates to a specific topic and definitions that you will more than likely will need to know for the upcoming exam. It is just another way of making an outline but by using this system it will save you a lot more time.
Third, this is most likely the most important rule that is usually overlooked. Learn and understand the way your professor conducts his or her lectures. This is something that you should get used to by the end of the first two weeks of your new class. Each professor uses his own developed way of teaching and communicating with the classroom. Once you realize that he or she focuses on specific details or that literally everything he or she discusses will be on the test, you will have a much greater advantage and understanding of what type of notes you should be jotting down. Many times students realize this after the first tests, depending on what type of questions will be asked, but instead of adapting to their professors way of teaching, they will still continue taking bad notes and struggle on exams.
Here are some other quick hints when taking notes:
• Take notes on only one side of the paper
• Use pictures, diagrams and tables to help you visualize and relate ideas
• Before the upcoming lecture, read the chapter that you will be focusing on next
• Go back and make sure that you didn’t leave any blanks, and if you did, remember to fill them in
Lastly, don’t forget to use your notes when it comes to exams and other assignments. If you took out the time to write all of this information down, make sure it goes into something positive. It is so much easier to learn something and to remember it when you have it clearly and precisely written down.