One of the key elements in passing any course is taking good notes. In order to learn the required information, your notes need to be thorough and organized in a way that makes them easy to review later. For many students, however, note taking is a difficult task, and often notes end up with either too little or too much information to make them useful. Fortunately, there are several techniques for taking better notes.
- Prepare. The first tip for taking better notes is to prepare for the lecture. Read over the assigned material before class. This will help you know what material is going to be covered and what questions you have about that material. It also tells you what is covered in your book or study guide, so you do not need to take detailed notes on information that is already detailed for you.
- Listen. Taking good notes requires you to listen to the lecture. This also means actually attending the class. Listening to the lecture enables you to pick up on points that may not be covered in the written material for the class. It also enables you to take better notes because you are able to hear the instructor say key words that help organize your notes.
- The instructor may emphasize certain points with tone, volume or gestures.
- The instructor may use signal phrases like, “There are three reasons…” or “There are two points of view…” These phrases alert you to significant points and help you structure your notes.
- The instructor may review at the start of class or summarize at the end, giving you a chance to make sure you have the most important points.
- Organize. Even if you were able to write down every word that came out of the instructor’s mouth, it will do you no good if you are not able to review the notes. Using an organized note-taking system will make it much easier to review your notes later. The following are some of the several possible ways of organizing your notes:
- Outline Method: When using this method, you simply organize your notes in the form of an outline. Main topics are labeled, with supporting points listed underneath. This can be in the I, A, 1, a labeling format or it can be done with bullets or dashes to emphasize the supporting points for the heading.
- Cornell Method: This is also called the 2-6 method. The basic idea is that you divide your paper into two columns, using the red line on the side of your paper as a guide. The first column is 2 inches wide and the second is 6 inches wide. You write notes in the 6 column, and use the 2 column for listing keywords, main points or topics. The 2 column basically highlights the information in the 6 column, making it easy for you to refer back to specific areas when you review.
- Two other popular methods are the Outline Method and Mind Maps
Taking better notes is an essential element of making good grades. Use an organizational method that is comfortable for you, and avoid using shorthand that may be confusing later. Instead of trying to write every word the instructor says, make an effort to write down main points and key ideas. Taking better notes comes with practice, but the use of these techniques can help you take more organized and easily understood notes.
Teachers – see our Taking Notes Lesson Plan
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