In virtually every class you take, you are expected to write down notes about what is being taught. These notes become a handy reference sheet for when you are studying later. But they are only useful if you have the right information and understand how to use it. A lot of students get tripped up trying to copy down every word that is said, but that isn’t necessary when you have more effective note taking strategies you can use.

Focus on Key Points

You don’t have to scribble down every single detail. Pay attention to information that your teacher emphasizes or repeats more than once. Listen for cues that something is important such as, “The three ways …” or “The reason why …” or “As a result …” etc. Other facts including people, places, dates, events, and key terms are often worth putting in your notes as well. Once you know the major points, you can go back and fill in more details later.

Leave Space

If your teacher starts out by summarizing four topics you are going to cover, write down each one in your notes, but leave space between them so you can add information during the discussion. If you use colored pens or highlighters, assign each topic a different color so you can differentiate between them when writing notes.

Use the Margins

Keep the content of your notes in the main body of the paper, but use the margins to draw asterisks or arrows to important facts you want to emphasize. Jot down the main question next to the spot in your notes where you can find the answer. It can also be helpful to write down a quick summary of what your notes are about at the top of the page – and add page numbers to keep everything in order!

Draw Pictures

Sketch a quick picture or diagram to help you keep information organized or understand how processes work. If you are a visual person, it might help to map out concepts. Start with one bubble that has the main point, then build out from that with supporting details or related concepts. You can see visually how the information is connected.

Write by Hand

Studies have shown that taking notes by hand rather than using your computer can improve understanding and retention. It’s okay to use your computer as a resource to find more details or look something up, but write your notes by hand, as this helps with the formation of short-term memories. In addition, it gives you a physical document to hold and study no matter where you are. Writing also helps you to focus and pay more attention to what is being said.

Rewrite Your Notes

After school, sit down and rewrite your notes from the day. It is a great way to review the information while it is still fresh in your mind, plus you can clarify what you wrote during class and add additional details. Choose a note-taking format that fits your learning style, such as the Cornell method, an outline, or a visual. The true learning comes as you recopy your notes in a format that will help you study and facilitate the creation of short-term memories. These memories are reinforced as you review in ways other than simply reading the notes.

As your note-taking skills improve, the goal is to eventually be able to use this executive functioning to organize and format your notes while listening to someone speak or having them write the information on the board. Crafting Scholars supports student in uncovering which strategies and formats work best for them, then fostering these skills.

If you are struggling with staying organized, taking meaningful notes, and studying effectively, the team at Crafting Scholars can help. We offer programs to boost organizational skills and prepare for exams in addition to providing support with subject content. Contact us today to sign up!