Have you ever taken notes in class and gone back to look over them and realized you have no idea what’s going on, like your notes are written in a foreign language? You’re not alone. Sometimes your notes can make you more confused that you already were.
People learn differently and some people don’t even have to take notes and can visualize things while others learn through hands on experiences and some can read something once and remember it forever. If note taking is a helpful study tool for you, make sure you are making the best of it.
Learn how to take notes that will actually help you study by following these tips:
You should always always always label or title your notes. Make sure you have the date, the course, and the subject at the top of the page. This is so helpful when going back to study and being able to find exactly what you’re looking for fast. It also prepares you mentally for what you are about to dive in to. Having the date and subject can trigger you back to when you were taking the notes.
Figuring out an effective note taking structure is the first thing you should do. Writing on only the front side of the page, rather than front and back, can help you focus. You should always start your notes on a fresh page. You can also skip lines in your notes to have room to add anything you want to later on. Having cluttered and sloppy notes can make it harder to concentrate and you could spend the majority of your time searching for specifics in your notes.
Focus on key words and keep your sentences short. If you are taking notes in class you might think it is helpful to copy down every word you see on the power point or every word that comes out of your professor’s mouth. This works for some people but to me it seems like if you are just writing every word you are not really understanding what is being taught, then later when you go back to review your notes it is like you are learning it for the first time, not reviewing. Try listening first to what you are hearing and then write only what you need to, making sure to hit important points about the topic.
If you are studying from a text book, the same thing applies. Don’t just write everything down word for word straight from the text. Think about what you’re reading first, then write what you need. This will be helpful when you go back to study your notes because you will remember what you read, what you thought about it, and then your notes will bring it all together.
Have a Start and Finish
Mapping out your notes or creating an outline can be really helpful. Instead of just writing the questions and the answer, you should also include some notes on how you got to the conclusion. Seeing everything laid out like that can help when it comes time to take a test or give a presentation, you can talk yourself through the problem and eventually arrive at the answer. Use the “question, answer, evidence” method.
Proof and Rework
Looking over your notes shortly after you take them can help you remember what you learned and help clarify anything you are unsure about. After class is over, or after you read a chapter, go back and proof read your notes. Make sure you haven’t left anything important out and make sure that your notes make sense. Once you’ve gone through your notes once or twice you should rework them. This does not mean copy your original notes word for word! This is when you can add new information or omit things that don’t fit, clarify things, and make corrections.
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