Taking notes can seem like such an easy task to do. Simply grab a pen and paper, listen and jot down what has been said. It’s one thing to take down notes, it’s another thing altogether to take notes productively. Note-taking, when done well, helps with retaining and processing information, and trains you to sieve out only the important information. From listening in lectures and taking down key theories and concepts, to sitting in meetings at work and taking down minutes, note-taking is a necessary skill even as you transition from schooling to work and adulthood. Here are some tips and tricks for any student to master the art of note-taking.
Read Ahead of Time
Familiarising yourself with the kind of content that will be covered by your teacher can help you with understanding key topics, chapters, and concepts. Reading notes provided to you ahead of the lesson, or browsing through your textbooks will help you to have a general idea of how you want to organise your notes during the lesson itself and after the lesson when you want to clean your notes up.
Create a Template for Note-Taking
Different templates suit different learning styles. If you are a visual learner, you might want to have your notes in a mind map or in a diagram. Coming up with templates for these visual formats will help you to prepare for the lesson. If you prefer to write notes without visual mind maps or diagrams, have a template where you can include categories for main topics, sub-topics, and create spaces where you can elaborate with additional bullet points. You can also colour code these topics to distinguish between topics better. This way, as you take notes from your teacher, you can digest information easier as they are compartmentalised under bigger concepts or theories. Having templates at hand also helps you to save time cleaning up your notes and gives you more time revising them.
Focus on Quality Instead of Quantity
As you take notes during the lesson, you don’t need to take down everything that your teacher says. Based on your existing knowledge about the given topic from your textbooks or notes that you have read prior to entering class, you would probably have an idea of the important information to look out for during the lesson. As you listen to your teacher explain certain concepts, theories, or equations, you can sieve out the important parts mentioned and include them in your notes. Sieving out key information takes some time to practise, but your notes will look cleaner and you will not feel too overloaded with information. Focusing on quality over quantity in your notes will help you to speed up your revision process. Less time is also spent trying to take down everything and more time can be spent digesting the important information.
Explore Note-Taking Styles
When you explore note-taking styles, you are open to discovering techniques that can help you to process and retain information better. Besides sieving out information and writing them in bullet points, you can also explore other ways of noting down information quickly and efficiently. For example, using short-forms and abbreviations can help you to take down notes at a faster pace. Certain note-taking styles might also appeal to you more than others. If you are a visual learner, for example, you can draw symbols or images associated with a concept or theory that helps you to better understand things that you need to learn.
Create a Legend
Creating a legend for yourself helps you to be familiar with markers that you can make as you take notes. If there are specific concepts or theories that you are still unsure of even after your teacher has explained them, you can have a symbol that indicates that you will come back to this theory later in your revision to make further clarifications. It could be a simple circle, or a triangle to indicate that you are unsure of the concept and need to ask your teacher about it after class. If there were certain things that were highlighted or emphasized on by your teacher in class, you can have a different marker to indicate their importance in your notes as well. Keeping a legend comes in handy as they remind you of what you need to do when you look at your notes again.
Making regular revisions will help you become more familiar with the notes that you have taken in class, and helps you to retain the information better. Remember to look through your notes frequently and clean them up to further help you with processing the concepts and theories that you have learnt in class. In your revision, you can also sieve out key concepts and theories, and turn them into flash cards for easy reference. Other formats that you can adapt your notes into include mindmaps, tables, and charts. Through constant revision and referencing to the notes that you took in class, you can continue to build your understanding of concepts and theories covered in class.
Note-taking might not be as straightforward as you think. It requires skills, techniques, and practice to take notes productively. Taking every lesson as an opportunity to practise your note-taking skills will be beneficial for you in the long run. A good set of notes helps you with studying and revising productively. Note-taking not only helps you in your learning at school, it is also an important skill to have as you transition to the workplace and information needs to be processed at a fast pace. Now that you have learned the art of note-taking, go forth and put it into practice!