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Tips to Improve Note - Taking

Improve Note - Taking

5-12-18Tips to Improve Note - Taking

Category : Academic

How does note-taking help?

Some studies say that 47% of what a person has just learned is lost from memory in the first 20 minutes and 62% is lost after the first day. Some others say that we tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first receiving it. The point to be noted is that any information that we first hear is lost almost immediately. This is because our brain is designed to retain whatever is necessary. So, it is up to us to train our brain to identify what is important enough to be retained. Thus, the need to inculcate the habit of note-taking.

How to take notes (effectively)?

Most students are aware of the various formats of note-taking. These types of note-taking have been proved effective. They are:

  • Cornell Method – Three major sections are made (one for notes, one for questions & cues, and one for a short summary of the concept.)
  • Outline Method – Division of notes based on main points and sub-points.
  • Mind-mapping Method – A visual representation of notes with the use of flowcharts, diagrams, colors, doodles, etc. to make connections between ideas and concepts.
  • Charting Method – Dividing key concepts across the page and noting down relevant information underneath.
  • Sentence Method – Freely writing down all important and related points one after the other and making connections later.

You can follow any of the formats or a combination of them. It depends on the subject, lesson, the student’s preferences, and sometimes even the teaching style of the teacher. Only by practical assessment, you can decide what works best for you. Taking the notes is quite easy, once you get yourself prepared and you’re ready to head to class, followed by winding up the process. In short, there are roughly three stages of taking notes: preparing, taking notes, reviewing. Whichever format you choose, it generally goes alongside these stages.

Stage 1: Prepare for the Learning

  • Pens & highlighters – Carry as many pens as you require. Situations like dropping your pen, lending them to friends, or the ink draining out when you are writing a crucial point are all possible. Colored pens are an option too if you’d like to highlight points or simply if you like to keep your notes bright and attractive. Other stationery like geometry tools, calculator, etc. is a must depending on the class you are attending.
  • Notebooks or sheets of paper – Whichever is convenient is the best option. Clip loose sheets in one place. If you are using a notebook, consider keeping one for one subject each or make separate sections within the same notebook. Carry your textbooks and sticky notepads if required.
  • Read up for the lesson beforehand – If you are given any material to go over before the class, please do so. Make a note of the concepts or words that you do not understand or that are new to you.
  • Other tasks – Carry a water bottle and sip some to keep yourself hydrated through class. Have a light, nutritious snack so that you are not distracted by your growling tummy during a lecture. But not something that might make you drowsy or want to go to the washroom. And do visit the washroom before the class begins so that you don’t have to miss out while you’re gone to attend to that. Get to class early so that you get enough time to be mentally set to slide into the next stage.

Stage 2: Pursue the Learning

  • Prime your notebook and stationary – Ensure that the basic details of the lesson are filled before the lecture begins. These are a date, topic, page number, subject & teacher (if required). Start a new lecture or concept or lesson on a new page.
  • Listen well – Pay attention to other students’ responses & questions. Don’t allow yourself to ‘zone out’ if a student pops up an uninteresting question or some dull point is being discussed. Be alert, as there can be gold in the rubble.
  • Write in your own words (and style) – Write what you understand. Leave ample space to come back and fill in with further understanding. Consider writing on one side of the book if you need more space. Write legibly so that you won’t have a hard time reading your own handwriting.
  • Make note of important or difficult words/concepts/questions along the way and don’t forget to clear them as soon as possible. Record new information instead of what you already know.
  • Keep your points brief – Use abbreviations, symbols, and numbering. Practice writing phrases or key-words only. It saves time. Your points should not be longer than 1-5 words to ensure better retention.
  • Put down key information – This includes dates, facts, names, terms, examples, formulae, etc. Later references can be made if you record textbook page numbers, online hyperlinks, crucial quotes, names of books/articles/studies, etc. Pay attention to the teacher’s repetitions.
  • Be systematic – Write out sub-headings for easier grasping. Make sure you maintain a chronological order so that you can trace the flow of thought. This is also why writing the date and name of the lesson is important.

Stage 3: Pin Down the Learning

  • Review your notes within the next 24 hours once. Compare and refer to textbooks or other reference materials.
  • Fill the spaces you left with comments or further questions.
  • Expand abbreviations you might not understand. Rewrite illegible words.
  • Rewrite your notes neatly or rephrase them to revise, if need be.
  • Make note of any concept or point that needs further explanation or that is unclear and clarify in the next class.

Effective note-taking is developed as you keep practicing it. By using the trial-and-error concept, you can find out which format works best for you, and that only makes you better. An additional tip is that you can go over your notes with a friend or a study partner, or even your teacher. It will help you determine whether you have covered the entire concept and provide an insight into different perspectives.