How To Take Effective Notes


A student's success in school is measured by the assignments completed and tests he takes. The students who garner the best grades and do well in class are often those who are effective listeners and note-takers.

Professor Dennis Jertz of Seton Hall University has said that taking lecture notes effectively is one of the skills students must learn to make the transition from high school to college careers. Note-taking is also necessary in the business world, making it a worthwhile skill to learn.

Despite its importance in higher learning, not much study has gone into the correlation between note-taking and performance improvement. As a result, statistics supporting the importance of effective note-taking do not exist. But it stands to reason that the student who takes good notes, and studies well from them, has a sporting chance to improve his or her grades over others with poor notes.

Learning Note-taking

It may not seem as such, but note-taking can almost be a lesson all its own. If only students could enroll in Note-Taking 101. Some elementary and high-school teachers attempt to teach strategies for taking notes, including developing outlines, but many students still struggle to maintain the essentials as they move through school. It can be confusing knowing just how much to write down without creating a novel or having notes so scant that they provide little information when it comes time to study.

There are many systems of note-taking that a student can learn. These include using graphic representations to map out interconnected concepts. Outlines or charts can group terminology together with related ideas. There are other techniques that use cue words to trigger recollection of facts and dates. Mnemonic devices help recall information. Students can experiment with different methods until they find a system that works well and offers measurable success.

Improving Listening Skills

No matter what method of note-taking is used, adequate listening skills are necessary to take effective notes. This helps students transfer what the professor is saying into ideas that can be put down on paper. Staring off into space or having your mind drift can cause a student to miss out on key parts of a lecture. To improve note-taking skills, a student must first improve listening skills.

* Sit up closer to the teacher or professor. This enables eye-to-eye contact that may help a student focus. It may also trigger visual clues to a professor to gauge whether the class is catching on or missing what's being taught. It's also advantageous from a practical standpoint. It enables students to better hear what's going on. If the professor is garbled or inaudible when sitting far away, moving closer is essential, especially in a large lecture hall.

* Remove distractions. When a student enters the classroom, he or she should be ready to learn. That means silencing mobile devices and gearing the mind toward the lessons. Not every lecture will be exhilarating, so students should make a conscious effort to pay attention. Limiting distractions can help.

* Use an assistance device. Students who are prone to "zoning out" may want to ask permission to use a voice recorder. This way if key elements of the lesson are missed, they can be played back. This method also helps students fill in gaps when taking or studying notes.

Keys To Note-taking

Once listening skills have improved, students can go on to other note-taking pointers.

* Sequencing material is important, so notes should be dated and numbered. If references are made to chapters that correlate to the textbook, jot those down so they can strengthen the notes.

* Charles Kettering, an American engineer and inventor, said, "There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it." When jotting down notes, a student who discovers that something seems unclear can ask for clarification or make a point to research that component further.

* Students should consider writing notes on one side of the page so that they can each be laid out side-by-side. Looseleaf paper works well, or notes can be typed and printed out.

* Students should develop their own method of abbreviations and symbols to cut down on the amount of writing needed. Notes needn't be in full sentences; phrases are equally effective.

* If a professor writes something on a chalkboard, puts text up on a projector or repeats something several times, it should definitely be written down. There is a good chance that information will be on the test.

* Students may want to review note-taking strategies with one another. Maybe there is a succesful method employed by one student that he or she can share with classmates.

* Rewriting or typing notes helps ingrain the information in the brain more than simply rereading it.

Note-taking is an important skill many students should make the effort to learn. Improved test scores can lead to a higher grade point average. This, in turn, can help with success in school and beyond.


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