The Best Note-Taking Techniques For Students
Note-taking is an essential skill for students to master. Numerous research studies have found that students retain knowledge better when they actively take notes rather than passively absorb information.
The reason experts believe note-taking is more beneficial than reading a handout or listening to a lecture is because this activity uses different parts of the brain. Note-taking forges connections and stores information in long-term memory.
Digital and handwritten notes are both beneficial which is great news for students who like using apps like OneNote or Evernote.
Our guide to the best note-taking techniques will help you study more effectively.
Focus on Key Information
The most important skill to master when taking notes is knowing what information is important. It’s not possible to write down everything you hear, so you need to listen for key words and phrases. As you take down points, try to summarise them in your own words as this will make it easier to understand when you read back later.
Circling important words can help when you’re reviewing your notes. Also, jot down anything you’re not sure about so you can look up this information later or ask the teacher. It can take time to learn what to include in notes, but the more you practice, the easier it will become.
Use Symbols and Abbreviations
Using symbols and abbreviations allows you to take detailed notes more quickly. Avoid words like ‘a’ and ‘the’ as you can easily grasp the meaning of a phrase without them.
You can come up with your own abbreviations or search online for a list of common abbreviations. Some examples include:
- i.e. – in other words
- vs. – against
- ea – each
- w/o – without
- c. – approximately
- e.g. – for example
Try a Range of Strategies
Different subjects require different types of note-taking, so don’t just stick to the same old style. Sometimes you may require very detailed notes, while on other occasions only a broad outline will be required.
Using different styles and strategies helps you to retain information because it keeps your mind active and focused. Graphic organisers are great tools that help you structure your notes for clarity. There are many free templates available online so try a few out to see what works for you. Mind maps are excellent when you need to closely analyse content and show the connections between concepts. Colour coding and highlighting help organise information and give visual appeal which is ideal for visual learners.
Rewrite and Summarise
Rewriting your notes might seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the best ways to cement learning. Summarising and rewriting notes, rather than just reading over them, will force you to think much more deeply about the lesson and highlight any knowledge gaps you may have.
Reworking your notes also allows you to structure information through the use of headings and numbered lists. Many students like to summarise their notes down to a list of acronyms for key concepts, and this is an excellent method for retaining information.
How Can a Tutor Help?
A tutor can help with all aspects of study and exam preparation. At Tutor Doctor, in addition to offering subject support, we assist with the development of higher-order skills such as organisation, time management and working memory.
Contact us for a free consultation.