The Importance of Taking Notes
During your academic experience, taking notes is one of the most critical skills that students must develop to succeed in certain courses. Note-taking helps students improve their participation in their classes, increase their understanding of course material, and enhance their learning experience overall. It keeps students engaged with the material they're learning and serves as an effective learning and studying strategy.
While it may not seem difficult at first, several students (such as myself) may find themselves having difficulty writing down notes during a lecture, or taking notes that are actually beneficial to their study sessions. Here are ways students can improve their note-taking skills and receive all of the benefits of note-taking.
Note-Taking Tip #1: Be Concise
One of the main fallacies that students make while taking notes is being too thorough and wordy. The purpose of taking notes is to create a more concise and understandable summary of the information that you are learning, not to copy down your whole textbook verbatim.
So don’t copy down every sentence in your textbook or on your teacher’s PowerPoint. Instead, read a section of the textbook and write down the most important points of that section. Focus on main ideas and the overall purpose of that particular section, and only include the most necessary details.
Writing down unnecessary information will only make note-taking more time-consuming and less beneficial. You’ll be spending way too much time taking notes on information that won’t matter when the next test comes around, thus, you’ll be wasting time learning information that you don’t necessarily need to know.
For lectures given by your teacher or professor, listen closely for a bit until you’re able to grab the main ideas of the lesson and jot them down. It’s too difficult to write down every single detail of a lesson while still learning the information effectively.
It is also important that students do not use long, complete sentences while taking notes. It is more effective and less time-consuming to jot down bullet points instead of writing down long paragraphs of information. The key is to indulge the information before you take any notes. Let yourself process and understand what you’re learning before you write down any details that you don’t need.
Note-Taking Tip #2: Organize the Information
Another common mistake that students make while taking notes is organizing the information poorly. Students will take notes on a lesson, look back at them to study for a test the next week, and find papers with long lists of unrecognizable information with no subtitles or proper structure. This will make your notes less appealing and will make it harder for you to study off of them effectively.
It is essential to organize the information you are writing down so that you know exactly what you’re reading when you need to study off of them later on. Using small techniques such as using subtitles, skipping a line before taking notes on a new lesson, or highlighting keywords will make the biggest difference. Your notes will be well-organized, easier to read, and much more helpful to your overall learning experience.
Note-Taking Tip #3: Choose the Right Format
While most people disregard this aspect, it’s important to take notes with a format that is beneficial to YOU. This may be difficult at times, especially if some teachers require students to follow a specific note-taking format. Regardless, it is important to follow this tip whenever you have the opportunity to do so.
Taking notes in a format that you are not comfortable with or do not particularly favor can harm the overall effectiveness of the notes you take. You won’t be able to study efficiently if you’re reading from a format that you’re unfamiliar with or that you dislike for whatever reason. So whether you prefer Cornell notes or lesson outlines, follow the format that has proven to help you the most.
If you are unsure of what format you prefer, try out a couple different ones and decide which you think is the most helpful to you. This will be different for everyone so the format that works for you may not work for your teacher, your classmate, or anyone else. Nevertheless, do what suits YOU. After all, the purpose of taking notes is to help enhance YOUR learning experience.