The ability to take good notes is a critical skill. Debra, a Carleton University student, would furiously record and write every word her professors spoke; yet her roommate continued to see higher grades by listening more and writing less.
That’s because Debra took more notes, while her roommate took smarter ones.
So How Do You Take Smart-Notes?
You might think that you have to copy down every single word uttered from your teacher’s lips just like Debra. But not all of what they say is important, strictly speaking. What you need are just those keywords to turn into a note-taking pro who nails every test and every assignment. Here’s how you can take smart notes –
- Listen and jot short summary notes that can be added after class.
- Develop a personal shorthand by dropping the writing of certain letters of words, using acronyms, and letting go of personal spelling and penmanship expectations.
- Learn your professor’s verbal and non-verbal cues to identify where they may use an enthusiastic tone to highlight what points are important or may appear in an exam.
- Understand the type of tests for the course and note accordingly. Personal tangents or theoretical opinions are difficult to use in multiple-choice exams.
- Repetition and paraphrasing are signposts for your attention. If you’ve heard it before, it’s probably important.
- Consider using graph paper to organize thoughts easily, noting main points and sub-points in different sections. If you prefer, use a mind-mapping technique of a central main point circle and surrounding circles for supporting evidence.
- Rewrite your notes into an organized summary that can be re-read until it is understood without referring to it.
- Pay attention. Goes without saying but if you don’t pay attention in class, you really wouldn’t know which points to jot down and which to omit.
- Underline or highlight points that have been repeated more than once during the course of a lecture. This way when you look at your notes, you’ll know at first glance what’s important.
- Ask questions. If you miss a point you think is important, don’t be hesitant to ask your teacher to repeat it. They might just appreciate your interest in the class.
- Compare notes with your peers and classmates. That way you’ll know if you’ve missed anything crucial and will have the material in front of you that you can copy.
Taking notes is no rocket science. So don’t sweat too much. Just keep these points in mind and you’ll see your note-taking skills improve considerably, and of course, your grades too.