For some reason, students are more reluctant tochange their note-taking habits than any other studying practice.However, this information may be some of the most helpful you’ll hear allsemester.Students who take good lecture notes and know how to use them to theiradvantage usually do better on tests…which leads to good grades, an excellentGPA, and a great career someday! So try out some of our suggestions. You might find that you’ll have a set of notes that will be an awesome study tool!
BE THERE—ON TIME Try your best to get to class a few minutes before it starts so that you can be ready togo when your professor starts lecturing.SIT IN FRONT Students who sit in the front of the classroom tend to listen better, askquestions, take better notes, and even perform better on tests than students who hide in theback. This is especially important if your professor relies on PowerPoint presentationsor writes important points on the board.BE PREPARED Have everything ready when the lecture begins—notebook with cleanpaper, pens, textbooks, and lecture notes from the last class to refresh your memory.DO YOUR OWN THING Outlines and visuals provided by your professor are a great way to help organizeyour notes, but be sure to put in additional explanations.
USE A BINDER, PLEASE Binders are much better for holding your notes than spiral- boundnotebooks—you can better organize your notes and insert any handouts with aparticular day’s notes. If someone wants to borrow your notes, you can give themjust the pages they need, not the entire notebook.WRITE LEGIBLY You’ll have to use your notes to study from, so try to write as legiblyas possible. You’ll be upset with yourself if you can’t even decipher your ownhandwriting!KEEP AT IT Write for the entire period—listening to a lecture is a relatively passive activity and note-taking can keep you actively engaged.HEADS UP Listen for cues during the lecture—lists, definitions, examples, voicechanges, and even obvious cues (“This is really important for you to know, so be sureto get it in your notes”).
LISTEN, THINK (FAST), AND THEN WRITE (FAST) Accept that you are not going to be able to get down every word theprofessor says. Try listening to an entire thought, quickly paraphrasing what was said,and then writing it down in your own words.REVIEW YOUR NOTES REGULARLY Don’t wait until a day or two before a test to start reviewing yournotes. Review whenever you have small pockets of time. Try reviewing your notesfrom the previous day while you are waiting for class to begin.COMPARE NOTES WITH A CLASSMATE Set aside some time to compare your notes with someone else’s. This canhelp you clear up some confusing points or missing ideas.
This note-taking methodis named the “split-page”because you divide (orsplit) your paper into twocolumns.You take notes on thewider right-hand sideand then use the left-hand side (which willhave a two- or three-inchmargin) to writequestions or annotations.
Once you have your paper set up, keep these tips in mind: •Date your notes in case you need to refer to notes given on a specific day. •Number each page so that if you take pages out of your notebook to study or to lend a friend, you’ll be able to get them back in the right place. •Take notes in the larger right-hand space. •Write in pen rather than pencil, which can fade, smudge, and smear.
Once you’re ready to take your notes, follow these guidelines for taking notes inan organized way: •Write in simple paragraph form. Students who make detailed outlines tend to leave out lots of information and concentrate more on the outline itself than the material that should be included. •Indent or underline key points and skip a line or two between key points. •Identify examples by marking them in a specific way. •Number lists. •Write in phrases, not complete sentences. •Use abbreviations to save time.
After your class, review your notes. This iswhere the left-hand side of your paper is used:Write questions in the margins that you can ask yourself as you study.Annotate key words and then verbally turn those key words into questions when youstudy.
One of the key advantages of using the split-page method for note-taking is that it allows you to do blind self-testing.1. Begin by doing what you have perhaps always done: read through your notes a couple of times to review.2. Fold your notes back so that all you can see is the narrower left-hand margin where you have your questions or annotations.3. Now ask yourself the question or turn your annotation into a question.4. Try to answer the question without looking at your notes.5. Now look at your notes. How much information did you remember?6. Continue asking yourself questions as you plow through your notes. Find some way to distinguish the questions you know from those you need to spend more time on.
Depending on what types of tests you will have and the type of courseyou are in, you may need to modify and personalize your note-takingstrategies.CONSOLIDATING TEXT WITH LECTURESome students like to use the back of their paper to add materialthat is related to the lecture but is only found in the text. DISCUSSION CLASSES A three column approach may be used: the narrow left-hand column contains the question posed by the professor, the middle column may havestudent responses, and in the far right- hand columnyou may write any additional comments yourprofessor makes.
VISUALS GALORETry to get reasonable replicasof diagrams into your notes. Also,be sure to get down the lecturenotes that go along with the diagram. LECTURE NOTES ON THE WEB If you have access to notes on the Web, go to class everyday and take the best possible notes you can. Once your professor’s notes are posted on the Web, download them and compare yours with his.Insert or expand on information you may havemissed.
If nothing else, remember these tips:•Some note-taking behaviors should be routine. For every class, you should beready to take notes when the professor begins lecturing, write legibly, keep at it forthe entire period, listen carefully, write in simple paragraph form, and review yournotes regularly.•In order to take notes in an organized way, use the split-page method, annotating orwriting questions based on information in your notes.•Self-test as a way of reviewing for your exams.•Know how to modify your note-taking for situations other than straight lectureclasses.