Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
A few reminders
Taking notes is a skill that students in higher education courses should master. Reading your textbook is a good thing, but it is always great to write things down for future consumption.
As you go through the information, put pen-to-paper when things are fresh in your mind. However, to make it even better, you also have to edit what’s written afterwards.
Do the prep work
Preparation for note-taking is as important as note-taking itself. If you do not prepare well, you might have difficulty performing efficiently.
Prepare a copy in advance
It isn’t always easy to read, write and listen at the same time. Unless you have an astounding memory, chances are you might forget a few things. You can use your books and take notes on the margins.
However, if you are against this idea of writing on your texts, you can do some photocopying and write on those instead.
Another alternative is to have a digital copy of your books and use a writing app such as Goodnotes or Noteshelf to create your data. These handwriting apps work best with a stylus.
It will feel like you are writing in a notebook, but with the added benefit of having digital freedom and all this encompass.
Always scan the summary
Having a general knowledge of the lessons beforehand can better help your memory when reading. Just seeing and knowing the terminologies right at the very start can be important.
With the textbook in front of you, scan the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter. Make a habit of asking yourself what the lesson is about and what the next lesson would be.
You can also check out the syllabus guide to get a general idea of the next round of topics.
Speed vs. retention
Writing fast can help you a lot, but what’s more important is to utilize your notes to understand better the topic being reviewed. Here are some things that may help:
Draw diagrams and charts
If it helps you understand the concepts better, you can quickly draw diagrams and charts while reading.
It doesn’t need to be neat, as you can rewrite them later on (which is another great way to retain information).
Here, your goal is simply to capture ideas that are perhaps completely new or just difficult.
Traditionally, highlighters are used to make sense of long chunks of text. However, it can be used to optimize your revision sessions.
Here, you can simply highlight or circle the terms and concepts deemed important.
It is alright to make mistakes
It is not your job to create clean notes that are void of mistakes. Your job is to capture the ideas and understand what’s in front of you.
Just cross out any mistakes you made and don’t beat yourself over it. You can always rewrite these later on.
Create a system
Sometimes, you need to have symbols or phrases that have meaning for you. For example, while writing down terminology, you can simply write “def @ p35” to say, “definition of this term can be seen on page 35 of the text.”
With this technique, you can write more things without repeating ones that are already done.
Additionally, you can use universal shortcuts such as “eq” for equation, “ff” for following or insert “…” to signify that there are missing words you should know.
Feel free to create your own system. The best system you can come up with is one that is intuitive to you.
Taking notes does not end just like that. As long as you are learning the same topic, you should always be prepared to revise and modify.
Read and re-read
Refreshing your mind after a rest will improve your memory. You don’t have to read your notes immediately after making them, as you can risk overloading your brain.
If you have written your notes properly, it will not be difficult to read them when reviewing them. We also recommend that you can glance at them in your free time just to keep things fresh your mind.
Rewrite and improve
The notes you took during on the first run may turn out messy- that is almost a certainty.
This, as the more ideas you try to connect, the more things will be jumbled. And that’s okay! In fact, having messy notes mean that you have done your best to write everything.
However, your initial notes may not be a good tool for you to review later on. Rewrite everything on your notes in another notebook that contains other lessons.
If you want, you can put everything in digital form. You can type a document on Word or use handwriting apps if you have a tablet.
Use diagrams and avoid having only text data. Your goal is to summarizes your topics, not to rewrite a copy of your entire library.
Check other resources
Take that extra step and do some more research and write down new things that were not mentioned before. Remember, don’t go overboard on this part.
Simply add things that you think can help you understand the concepts further.
Look for resources on the web that give a fresh take on the topic.
Many students do not take notes. Unless you have a photographic memory, it is bad practice when you are studying.
With the tips above, you become a learning powerhouse and reviewing for your final exams will be much easier.
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