A huge part of succeeding in college is the ability to take good, informative, easy-to-read notes in class. This can be the difference between just scraping by and acing a class! There are many different styles of note taking, and whichever one you choose is bound to help you on your path to getting good grades. Here are five tips to taking better notes in college:
- Handwrite your notes and then type them (if time allows)
Some may find typing notes for class distracting, while others prefer typing to writing notes by hand. Both definitely have their place and it’s really all about what works for you. Studies have shown that the tactile experience of writing notes by hand improves memory retention and comprehension. So why not do both? If time allows, focus on writing your lecture notes in a notebook and then type them out after class. This way you’re spending more time with the information and more likely to remember what you just learned.
- Utilize technology
- Record lectures: Ask your professor or your college if you’re allowed to record lectures. Then, use your phone’s voice memo or a voice recorder to record so you don’t feel like you have to copy everything down word for word. You still should take notes, but hopefully you won’t be as frantic because you know you can always go back and listen to the lecture!
- Apps: There are a multitude of apps that could aid your notetaking and information retention.
- AudioNote lets students record lectures and type or draw simultaneously. The audio from the recorded lecture is then synced to the writings or drawings.
- EverNote allows for customizable notes, making information easier to find through color coding, changing fonts, and highlighting.
- MarginNote lets students import digital text and then take notes in the digital margins of the text. Afterwards, you can use the app’s tools to summarize the text, create mind maps and flashcards, or search and add additional information with the research browser.
- Review slides: Ask if your professor could email the lecture slides to you. This way you can look them over before class even begins. Some professors even post their PowerPoint slides the day of class so you can print out the slides with space for notes!
3. Figure out a note-taking system
- Experiment with different systems. Here are a few questions to think about when formulating your individual note-taking system:
- Do you prefer roman numerals, bullet points, or indentations?
- How do you determine which information is more important?
- Do you like to use starring, highlighting, underlining, or placing stickers?
- What about coming up with a symbol to identify information that a professor explicitly said will be covered on a test?
Once you’ve figured out which style is best for you, stay consistent so you can better understand your notes post-lecture and follow your thought patterns.
- Color code and label your sections after class. Going back over your notes and then color coding them according to topic or importance and labelling each section with a header to find each section quicker when studying later.
4. Write in your own voice
- Use shorthand, abbreviations, or symbols that you’ll remember for faster note taking. For example,
- Use arrows instead of writing “up” or “down”,
- Abbreviate between “btwn”,
- Use the and symbol instead of writing out the word.
- Don’t just write down what your professor says verbatim. If you have time, think through what was said and write it down in your own words. That way it’s easier for you to understand when you look back at your notes!
- Write any questions you have in the margins of your notebook. Having your questions in one predictable spot will help you remember to ask the questions in class or research the questions later.
5. Draw any graphs, figures, or charts
- Re-draw graphs and figures: This can help you better understand the concepts. Label the charts and graphs in a way that’s the most helpful for you. Even if a figure or graph wasn’t part of the lecture, draw one if you think it would add to your memory retention!
- Create charts that compare and contrast information you just learned. For example, if you’re learning the difference between two animals, maybe write the characteristics down in a chart rather than a bullet point list. Draw a picture of an animal during your anatomy class and label the body parts. Every extra bit of time you spend with the information will help you remember it!
Note Taking is different for everyone, and it may take a while and a few different styles to find the best system for you.