Here’s something you already know about the rest of your college life - studying can be hard on its own. It’s worth it, however, to learn how to ease at least some aspects of it.
Taking notes can become a tedious task, but can you organize them efficiently? That’s another question worth answering.
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When it comes to taking notes, you don’t need a distinct writing talent - you just need a solid plan and pure dedication.
When you learn how to make excellent notes, you’ll be able to:
- easily understand challenging topics by condensing them into straightforward facts using language tools familiar to you;
- spend less time writing and more thinking;
- revise for exams quicker and pass them easier.
No one has one universally correct answer to these issues. Still, you need to be precise and concise and develop ground rules for making the process easy and fast. Look into our list of 10 valuable tips on organizing your notes and putting principles into practice.
Guide to Taking Notes
To avoid any future problems, you might have organized the notes for each class and started changing your attitude about them. It’s easy to see how disorganized records add a couple of hours to your revision. Moreover, you might never be able to decipher what you meant by two squiggly lines jotted down in a hurry.
Unless your purpose for attending the lecture is to understand the main facts and write them down to remember, you won’t be able to take good notes. So, our first advice is to be actively involved in the class.
You must be aware of your surroundings and consciously attend each lecture. Otherwise, you might be present but not actively participating. This leads to misunderstandings when you try to make sense of the notes later. Remember that understanding the topic is as important as writing it down.
What if the lecturer’s speech is fast and slurry? It might be hard to understand and write down at the same time. Technology can save us! You can record it and listen back at home while revising the information.
Indeed, it will take more time now, but you will save time on revising for the exam in the future.
Practice Legible Writing
When going through the variants of what you can do to optimize your notes, remember to take time to practice writing skills. This includes the quality and speed of your handwriting.
How much time do you need to write down a sentence? More than it takes to say one, for sure. To ensure that you can catch up to the pace, you might need to practice fast writing techniques (there are a lot of them online).
Another way you can take it is by using symbols and abbreviations in writing. Notes are not your usual academic writing, so you can take liberties with what you actually write. Use short forms you’re used to, like “bc” for “because” or “ppl” for “people.” Be careful about introducing the new ones on the spot. You can easily forget what they mean by the end of a lecture.
Type Out the Notes
To avoid the struggle of fixing your handwriting, you can use your laptop or tablet to type out the notes. There are many reasons you might want to type them:
- It’s faster to type with autocorrect and shortcuts;
- You can save them and share them with your classmates;
- You don’t get as many hand cramps;
- You can copy and paste specific phrases;
- You can correct anything without making your notes look messy.
Still, you need to be skilled in fast typing. There are tons of blind typing courses online for you to get better at.
Use Outline Method
Before the class, you must take time to concentrate on the topic and listen to audio cues for the lecture’s structure. The professor will usually divide the topic into subsections and announce lists.
If you catch that, you will have an opportunity to create a decent outline and put info into charts.
Use Visual Cues
Outlines help organize the information to be easier for you to access. Visual cues have the same effect. You can try using mind maps or split the page into two separate, primary and secondary, ideas.
However, these solutions are usually best when you take notes from a written source. You have time to process the information and condense it. Arranging what’s left into visual schemes will make it better for you to revise later.
Try Out Cornell Method
While taking the notes, leave the column on the right empty to take notes of all the most important issues mentioned in class. In 3-4 bottom lines, make sure to leave space for a summary after you’ve revised and organized them. This way, you leave enough space to add and summarize.
Guide to Arranging The Notes Afterwards
If you have followed our tips on taking notes, you will have no problems arranging them when you need revision.
Here are some additional tips for making the most of your notes.
After the class, don’t be shy to ask questions about any information you think you missed. The professor should repeat something for you if you didn’t get the chance to catch it.
Use Memory Queues
You can easily take advantage of some simple concepts that you already know and connect with the new information. Use funny word combos or whole sentences to remember complicated concepts.
Highlight Main Points
Remember to use any means available to you to highlight the main points. It’s better to do this at any free moment during the lecture. This way you won’t forget what the ideas were.
It’s best to leave some space to add info after finishing the lecture. Add subheadings for the main parts. You will not miss any significant sections or crucial points.
Store Notes in One Place
Use only one notepad for one subject. Do not write on separate sheets of paper. If you have already done so, staple them into one notebook or store them in one folder. It would be best to have one big notepad for all your courses. But it will only work if you don’t have classes where you need to write a lot.
And the last thing you should remember is that notes are not something official you need to submit. So you’re free to make them into whatever you want and show your individuality. Be creative and stay true to yourself. If you don’t like colored highlights, don’t use them; find something you will enjoy.
The process of organizing your notes starts way before you sit down to write them, as it begins with the planning stage. When you clearly understand what you’re going to cover and how you’re going to cover it, your notes will come out much better than if you were just to wing it.
We like to call it “the big picture” view of things. When you have an idea of the overall structure of your notes, you can easily add bits and pieces that are related to that topic as you go along. So, try some of the steps we’ve covered, and have fun organizing your notes.