Have you ever wished for study material that improves your conceptual understanding? Did you ever want a summary of your classes during your last-minute revisions? The solution could be at your fingertips — in your notes!
Taking notes during classes is definitely a skill. One must be able to comprehend and note down key points before the teacher moves to the next concept. Like any other skill, you can improve at note-taking with practice and effective techniques. The ideal way to take notes is clearly between mindlessly writing down everything the teacher says and spending too much time highlighting and drawing diagrams. When done right, notes act as a great tool as they can propel your performance to new heights.
When you are committed to taking notes in class, you will have no choice but to stay focused. While you are engrossed in making notes, your mind is less likely to wander since you will be mindful of what is being taught. What happens when you actually pay attention? Your notes improve parallelly with your memory and understanding. A 2014 study conducted by Princeton University and the University of California showed that students who take notes by hand performed better in conceptual questions.
Note-taking is proven to help students learn better. Research on learning shows that taking notes engages students as they tend to actively listen and summarise concepts. This in turn helps them understand and retain information. Reviewing notes is a great way to revisit key points taught in class, which otherwise may not be mentioned in textbooks.
This method was created at Cornell University in the 1950s and is an effective way of organising your notes, especially if you constantly refer to your notes for revision. In this method, you are required to divide each page into three sections: notes, cues and summary. The three sections together perform the following functions:
1. Record: Use the notes section to record points during your classes. Make sure the sentences are crisp and do not exceed 5-6 words.
2. Question: Next, fill the cues section with potential questions based on the points you’ve taken note of. Ideally, this should be done right after a class or at most on the same day. You will observe that when you formulate questions, you strengthen your memory and get greater conceptual clarity.
3. Recite: Cover the notes section with a sheet of paper. Now refer to the questions in the cue section and try to recall what you have understood from the notes. You don’t have to recite it verbatim.
4. Reflect: Now sit back and ponder over these questions:
Doing this little exercise would reinforce what you have learned so far, making it less likely that you forget the topic.
5. Review: Reviewing helps you retain your lessons. Set aside sometime every week to review your notes. This not only helps in revising but also boosts your understanding of upcoming concepts.
The Outline method is a simple and easy way to take notes that most of us naturally follow.
In this technique, you start by writing down the key points that are to be discussed during the class. Once the class commences, you start adding important points under these main headings. Remember to leave sufficient space for sub-points under each heading or key point.
While this method organises your notes into a structured and logical flow of points, it may be cumbersome to review later. The Outline method may not make for the best revision notes but can definitely aid your memory during exams.
In this method, the main topic or heading is written at the centre of a sheet with connecting topics, ideas, and concepts branching out in different colours. You can assign a colour to each branch — for example formulae can be red whereas dates and events can be yellow. Mapping can maximise your participation in classes as it organises facts in the form of a logical map.
This is a note-taking method that the artist in you will love. It’s colourful, aesthetic and a treat for a visual learner. If you like your notes vivid and artsy, then this technique is for you.
As the name suggests, bullet journaling largely involves taking notes in the form of bullet points. But the technique is not limited to just that. You can turn a blank sheet into a colourful representation of your learning and thought process. You can doodle relevant diagrams and use highlighters to colour-code and organise your notes.
A significant drawback of this method is that it is time-consuming. One often hardly has the time to stop to sketch during a class. But you can play around and make it work for you since there are no specific dos and don’ts for this method. One way to make it more effective is to combine another note-taking method, such as the Mapping or Outline method to make bullet journaling more effective.
No matter which note-taking method you choose, know that it takes practice and patience to improve. Note-taking is a skill that improves your learning and you don’t have to be perfect at it. The takeaway is finding a technique that helps you take reliable notes that you can actually refer to during exams.
How do you prefer taking notes? Tell us in the comments below!
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