Note taking is a difficult skill to learn, and your strategy will change depending on what type of course you are taking. Not only do you have to coordinate the actual writing or typing of your notes, you also have to pay attention to the instructor, process the information, choose what information is important, and do all of this under a time constraint. Sounds complicated, right? By using the following strategies, you should be able to take, organize, and use your notes to help you study for your assessments. Remember, if you can't use your notes to help you study, then what is the point of taking them?
Tips to help make note taking successful
- Spend 15-30 minutes previewing the material before coming to class; look at terms, ideas, and the overall big picture. You can also develop questions you don't understand. This will make the most out of your time in lecture, and it will help you understand the material that is being covered and know more about what you are writing down
- During class, engage yourself and take notes over what the instructor talks about. There are a variety of different note-taking techniques you can use, and you will need to choose a strategy that fits you and the class you are in. Thomas Frank's video (How to Take Notes in Class) covers several different techniques you can use while taking notes. It is important to note that your technique may change from class to class and moment to moment. Use any combination you like, as long as you get things down on paper.
- After class, you must review your notes and lecture materials within 24 hours. The best thing to do is spend time summarizing and re-writing what you wrote down in class. Don't be afraid to draw diagrams to help you visualize content and connections between concepts or look up things you don't know/understand in your textbook or online. The goal here is to learn the concepts covered and summarize them in your own words; be sure you don't forget important vocabulary or leave out specific or important details that can show up on an assessment!
One great technique for taking notes in class or while reading text is the Cornell method. Please click here to download the template!
If you would like to talk with someone a little more in depth on various styles of note taking and how you can use those notes to study, please schedule an appointment with a Peer Academic Coach here.