Is your study time as productive as it could be? If not, your notes could be the culprit. Even though note-taking may seem like a no-brainer, there are some key things you could be doing to make sure that your notes best represent the material gone over in class. The first thing you can do is eliminate little sticky notes and scrap paper in favor of one big notebook. After that, follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to a notebook full of information that will serve you well when you review.

  1. Don’t even try to write it all down. Be a filter when the information comes to you in classroom. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed with a jumble of words and phrases that likely mean nothing later. Jot down the main points or phrases; don’t worry about writing complete sentences. If you fall behind, use a dash or a space and try to go back and fill in later. No matter what, keep up with what the professor is communicating with you. If you make a mistake – a single line through it will do the trick. It’s quick.
  2. Create your own shorthand. In fact, you’ve probably already done so when logging in all of those texting minutes, right? With can be w/, that is can be i.e., and because can be b/c. Choose whatever works for you, but stick with it until it becomes second nature to you.
  3. Remember the skeleton outline technique that you learned back in elementary school? You don’t have to get bogged down into the minutia of it, but borrow from the main concepts with your collegiate note-taking. Upper case Roman numerals indicate a main point, followed by lower case letters in the alphabet for supporting material. And indenting always helps to keep related material in one grouping. It might help to think of your notes as paragraphs.

A prompt review of your material is essential to retention. Try to block out time every day after class at some point to go over your notes and make any clarification that might be necessary while the discussion is fresh in your mind. Fill in the blanks, paraphrase thoughts as best you can recall if your notes are sketchy in areas.

Now that you understand the basic components in taking good notes, you should realize that regular review is important. Why take great notes if you’re not going to go over them until the night before finals? Your notes are one of your best tools in keeping up with the class material. Take advantage of them often and you will surely reap the rewards when grades come out.

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