Note taking is probably something that you were never taught in high school or the beginning semesters of college. However, it is something that is very important if you are trying to keep your grades up and stay organized.
Professors just assume that notetaking is something that everyone is proficient at or some gift that all students have. You and I know that this is not the case. Like anything else, note taking is something that needs to be practiced in order to become great at it. Not to mention the fact that being a good note taker will help you out in your professional life once college is over.
So here are a few tips for you so that you can become a better note taker.
What Do Notes Do?
Before we get started with tips to help you take better notes, we should figure out what exactly the point of taking good notes is.
A lot of people take notes to try and capture every single thing that is said in the lecture or book. This is not the way to do it and will likely result in failure. If you are trying to take notes on every single thing that is being said, you aren’t leaving room for thinking about what it is that you are writing down and how everything fits together.
The main purpose of note taking is this: help you study better and faster. What this means is that you don’t need to have everything written down, just the most important things. If you focus your time and effort on taking everything down, you won’t be able to recognize what is truly important.
This means that when it comes down to exam time, you will need to sift through everything that you have written down instead of just hitting on the important stuff. Seems a little counter-intuitive doesn’t it?
So now that you understand that point of taking good notes is to help you study better and faster as opposed to copying all of the information, we can move on to what you should be taking notes on.
What Should You Be Writing Down?
What you are writing down should be focused on two different parts. First, you will want to make sure that you are taking notes on stuff that you don’t already know. What is the point of writing down things that you already have a solid grasp on? Anything that you already know you will be able to recall come exam time, don’t add to your notes.
Second, you will want to make sure that you are writing down what is relevant. What information will you likely need to remember later? This could be information that will be on an exam, or used in a group project or something that you will need for an essay. This will likely be things that correlate to the reading that you did, which means that you will actually have to do the reading before class.
Here is some of the information that you should probably be looking to write down when they come up in lecture:
Dates of Events: Having dates will help you keep things in chronological order and understand the context of the event. For example, if you know that Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452, then you will be able to relate his work to others around that time.
Names of People: When you can associate names to ideas, you will have a much better time remembering what it is you were supposed to know about that person or that idea when the exam comes.
Theories: The theories are likely the main point of the class, so make sure that you remember to take them down.
Definitions: Like theories, these should always be taken down. The lecture will likely revolve around them.
Images: It is important to make note of any image that is being used. Don’t go into too much detail about them but make sure that you take enough notes to remind yourself about the image.
Other: Just about anything that the professor is writing on the board him or herself is something that should be taken down. If it is important enough for them to take the time to write it, it should be important for your notes.
Note taking is something that needs to be practiced in order to be done effectively. If you have tried these techniques and are still struggling, try out my product Save My GPA to help you become a better note taker.
Next week I will outline three different note taking techniques that you can use