Writing notes is important because it not only makes your exam preparations better but stays with you in physical form for future reference. Learning how to take notes will make your transition from school to college easy, making it convenient to adapt to change in style of teaching and learning.
A lot of students make the mistake of not attaching importance to notes in class. The first reason they give themselves is 'I will remember this'. More often than not, it does not prove to be correct.
When it comes to taking notes, there are two kinds of memories which are involved. One is sensory memory and another is working memory. The sensory memory can store a lot of information but it cannot retain it for a very long time. So, it is essential that information is regularly transferred to your working memory so that it can be put to use. Making notes is how you can do that.
Now that we have understood the 'why', let us shift focus on 'how'.
Leave Half The Page Blank
Take notes on one topic only on half the page and leave one half blank. This will allow you to write your confusions or questions in that space when your read your notes again. You can also use the space to summarise your own thoughts. You can write whatever you have understood by reading the notes to achieve a better clarity of thought. Also, start notes of a new lecture on a new page.
Invent Short Forms
You can invent short forms which will save your time while taking notes and make it possible for you to compile thoughts in a better manner. For example, every time you need to write 'increasing' you can use ↑ symbol to make it easy for yourself. Also, if a name such as William Shakespeare is being repeated, you can only write the initials WS after writing the full name once. This way, you won't be spending all your time in the class writing something down and will actually pay attention also.
Highlight Important Parts
If your teacher says something is important or is spending a lot of time explaining one topic, it would be safe to assume that there are high chances of it coming in exams. So, make a star mark in front of the notes on that topic to in order to remind yourself that you need to learn it well. While reading your notes again, you can go through. Also remember that it is always good to write notes on your own. Borrowing them is an option but it should not be used too often as it will be easier for you to understand things you have written yourself.
Read the chapter or your previously made notes before coming to the class. By doing this, you will be able to understand things better and subsequently make good notes. Try to read about the concepts, note down your confusions, look up for meanings of difficult words. This preparation will also help you being involved in the class and you will be able to discuss things better with your professor.
Pay Attention To Others' Questions
We have a tendency to become distracted when someone asks a question we are not particularly interested in. Try to avoid this habit as the other student is understanding things from a different perspective and their questions might be totally relevant and enhance your understanding of the topic as well.
Review And Edit Notes
It is very important to review your notes within 24 hours and edit and omit words and phrases which seem unnecessary. You can also highlight parts which you wrote later while studying to differentiate it from what you wrote in the class. You may also want to re-write your notes after comparing them with the text in the book. Link all the learning together by writing a summary that addresses the essential question and answers the questions from the left margin. Note that a summary is different from a reflection that focuses on your response to the learning task or content. This is the time when you can fill in those blank spaces.
Keep Your Notes Safe
Keeping your notes safe and organized will help you to go back to them for revision very easily. If you are making your notes on a notebook, write the name of the subject on top. If you are writing on loose pages make sure they are numbered properly. You can also organize your notes based on topics and sub topics so that each chapter and each lecture is divided into well defined notes.
A study has proven that we tend to lose almost 40 per cent of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. By making notes you can regain the information whenever you want. We hope that with these steps, the process of doing it will become easy.