Maybe you’re one of those who takes notes in class just because it’s what you’re supposed to do–but then you never look at them after the class. Or maybe if you do look at them, you find yourself regularly trying to understand what it is you wrote. Or you wrote it. If so, you need to overhaul your note-taking skills. Taking notes should be a learning experience, and the facts you learn should stick with you. Here are some suggestions for the power note-taker:
1) The first thing you should ask when you begin taking notes is, “What is the instructor’s purpose, and what is the textbook-writer’s purpose?” This will give you a clue about where the class is going.
2) Make sure you attend all classes. Nothing ruins the flow and value of your notes like a big gap in a critical place.
3) Try to sit up front in the class. This will allow you to see and hear better, and will also decrease the number of distractions.
4) Format your notes so that they will be helpful research aids in the future. This means you should record the place and date of the class, the title, and the instructor. You should also number your pages (This way, you can make notes for yourself that so-and-so topic is on page 14).
5) Do your best to write neatly. If you can’t read what you’ve written, then you’ve just wasted all of that note-taking effort. This might mean that you’ll have to adopt some kind of shorthand method to make up for lost time, but it will increase immensely the value of your notes.
6) If you do as we just said–adopting a shorthand method–include a key at the top of the page at the start of the section, telling what each abbreviation means. For instance, if your class is in biology and you don’t want to keep writing out photosynthesis, note in your key that ph= photosynthesis.
7) Highlight key concepts with asterisks or by drawing boxes or circles around them. Also, mark important terms, ideas and concepts with different colors. Indicate uncertainty by circling a question mark by the item–then go back and research it later.
8) Always leave wide margins for your notes. This will allow you to come back in the future to insert other important, related information.
These 8 simple steps will set your notes apart from the rest and make it easier for you to master the material for future exams.
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