Observe any classroom or lecture room and you will see students buried in their notepads while frantically writing notes. Yes, lecturers and teachers do speak very quickly but trying to write down every word they utter is pointless. There is a far smarter method to take notes. Firstly, it is important to understand the goal of note taking. The absolute goal of taking notes is simple: It’s to reduce your study time. Follow these rules.
1. Listen first. Write later.
Many students make the mistake of focusing too much on writing notes while sacrificing listening and comprehension of what is being said in the classroom. Rather listen carefully, understand and process concepts first. Even if it means not taking any notes in classroom as you can always write them later.
2. Avoid recording raw information
Before frantically writing notes, consider what information you already have available. Much of the raw information will already be in your textbook, lecture slides or course notes. Therefore, by simply writing down this raw information during class you are just duplicating the information. This does not reduce your study time. The most time-consuming piece of studying is processing the information into the ideas and frameworks which will help you compose intelligent answers on an exam. Raw facts are useless. To reduce the time required to study, you must try to do as much thinking and processing of the information as possible while still in the classroom. You’re there anyways, you might as well make the most of it! Don’t record what the professor says, record the importance of what he says. The only thing that should go into your notebook is processed information. When it comes time to study, your task becomes one of review, not thinking, and this saves significant time.
3. You should probably take notes…
- Anytime the professor/teacher says, “You need to know this,” or “This will be on the test.”
- Anytime the professor/teacher repeats himself.
- Anything the professor/teacher specifically writes on the board or draws a diagram of.
- Anything the professor/teacher repeats very slowly so that it can be taken down word for word.
- If your professor/teacher starts talking more quickly, or loudly, or with more emphasis.
- Watch for language that shows relationships between ideas. These sorts of points are often where professors/teachers get their exam questions from:
- especially, most significant, most important
- however, on the other hand
- because, so, therefore, consequently