As we all know (experienced, rather), taking notes in lectures is extremely difficult in the beginning. The transition from school to university with the differences in atmosphere and teaching methods of each professor, force the majority of us to change their note taking methods. So have a look at the most recommended note taking styles and when each can be used.
Keep in mind that if one of them did not work with you, that doesn’t mean that you failed or that university life will be impossible for you. You can try each one of them and find the method that suits you the most, or even encourages you to take notes in which subject more!
However, before taking notes let’s start with the preparatory stage, before class. How you prepare for class will greatly affect your concentration in class, which will consequently influence your notes. Hence, here are some tips:
Sleep, sleep, and sleep! It's essential to always get enough sleep before your classes or even just a quick nap to keep alert in class would be good. You don’t want to daydream the whole class and miss on all the opportunities of knowing the most important parts in the exam.
Read your pre-assigned topic beforehand
A study conducted by Spies and Wilkin in 2004 stated that law students who read their cases before class had enhanced understanding, as a result of multiple reasons as:
· Familiarizing you with the topic you are about to take and subsequently enhance your concentration, since you will be attentive of the important parts when they come.
· Reading something at least 2 times will directly store the information in your long term memory, facilitating your reviewing process afterwards.
· Lastly, you won't have to wait for the next class anymore to ask your questions, since your inquiries will be ready beforehand and they will either be answered during class or directly after, therefore you will leave with all your material ready!
Pack everything needed:
The last thing you want is to be missing a pen, pencil, or even a paper to write on an important note that will help you connect everything later, resulting in you just sitting there trying to hold the information in your brain as long as possible. Make sure you have colored pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, text book and a notebook for each subject.
Lastly, WATER and snacks:
When getting ready for class, it's always more tempting to drink coffee instead of water, however all studies stated that hydration is vital for your concentration, of course, alongside the intelligent amount of coffee.
As for snacks, it is highly recommended to avoid high salt and high sugar snacks, since you will soon be distracted by your hunger, instead, you can have an apple, crackers, or any healthy snack that’s enough for the class.
Now you are in class ready to take notes! You can either take them on your laptop or tablet, which is a quick method if you can type fast, and can be helpful with all the notes organizing applications. Nevertheless it can still have its problems with some subjects like mathematics and physics, since it can be hard to write all the equations so fast. It would also be impossible to draw diagrams during class if needed to explain certain parts such as in biological subjects.
On the other hand if you take them on paper, then it will benefit you if you are the type of person that memorizes information and processes it easily when it’s handwritten. You can increase that by using one of those methods, that mainly aim at increasing your active learning during class and reducing the after class reviewing time. These methods are:
It is one of the easiest and simplest methods as well as saves you some time in class to catch up with the professor. In this method you need to take the main points of the assigned topic and write them as headlines in advance, so that in class you can write beneath each headline the notes that the professor emphasizes, repeats or even your questions and their answers.
However, it can be challenging with a professor that doesn’t follow the order of the book in addition to being overwhelming to read the notes you wrote quickly, which can be solved by trying to summarize them in your own way before reviewing and testing your active learning process.
Most of you heard this name before, well as you may already know, this is a structuring method that focuses on dividing the note taking process throughout the day, during and after class either directly or later in the day. To achieve this you divide your page into three sections:
1. Notes: this is in the left part of the page, which will contain your notes taken during class, including headlines, doodles or diagrams.
2. Cues: the right part of the page, which takes the majority of the page. This section will have the key points that the professor mentions in class. You can either add them during class or directly after class.
3. Summary: this is the smallest section in the bottom of the page, which will contain a summary of the class in your own words. You can complete this either immediately after class or later in the day, but not after that so you don’t forget.
With this method you have to keep in mind that it is only applicable with certain subjects like chemistry, history or philosophy. It can be used to connect multiple complex ideas together in one page or even discuss a specific idea in depth. From the main idea, you will draw lines to the subheadings or the smaller details it can be related to. Later, you can add some smaller facts under each subheading while rereading it.
This method can be of great help while preparing for an essay as it helps in clarifying your thoughts.
This is where artists can engage their hobby with their studies. With this method you can draw diagrams, little doodles or draw a graph, adding small explanations that would help your understanding later.
Writing on slides/ textbooks:
The previous methods can all be overwhelming and time consuming to some people, which can discourage them. In this case, this method would certainly be of most advantage to them and to those who are going through rough days when they want the laziest way to write their notes.
All you have to do is follow up with your professor along your textbook or their slides that they may have provided in advance and only write down small notes that are missing, highlight or underline the parts that the professor stresses on.
This method is for the visual learners! Those who find it difficult to memorize or understand most of the book unless it is clearly demonstrated in front of them. Here you can transform your page into whatever you want your brain to permanently remember and visualize anytime.
Although it is an organized colorful looking method, it still has its drawbacks, mainly being time consuming.
Lastly, here are some additional tips that may be useful:
1. Your mentality while going to class is crucial as it can negatively influence your learning process. You should constantly try to encourage yourself, be determined to learn at least a single new piece of information from each class you attend.
2. Instead of packing your things and leaving as soon as the professor says he is done, stay for a couple more minutes. In those minutes, the professor can either answer a question that might occur to your mind later on and slow you down, summarize all the important key point of the class or even mention what is mostly needed in the exam from this topic
3. Finally, it is preferable that after finishing a topic that you reread it at least twice instead of leaving the information rust, the first time on that same day you took it and the second time after a couple of days in 10-20 minutes maximum. This is a guaranteed technique to store your lectures in your long term mem