Taking effective notes is a critical means to improving your academic performance and class-room participation. Writing down meanings and definitions of difficult words, underlining important points, noting down simplified versions of complex theories and marking important features in a topic constitute one of the main ways to remember your lessons.
The following 6 pointers will help you take down useful notes during important lectures and seminars.
1. Pay attention to the verbal and body language of your instructor.
The best way to ensure you have good lecture-notes with you is to concentrate and listen keenly to what is being told and taught. Many a times, the teacher will stress on a topic more than once indicating clearly that it is important. On the other hand the teacher would be disinterested in a topic if it weren’t useful. Pay attention to the tone, the body language and the eye contact levels between the teacher and the class to gauge what’s important and worth taking down. For example, if the teacher begins to look away from the students or glaze over or babble, he is sending you a clear message that what he says won’t appear on the test paper.
2. Write condensed notes in an organized way.
One school topper claimed that he wrote down the gist of a whole lesson in less than a page! That alone sums up the whole note-taking purpose. The main reason you take notes is to condense your subject matter leaving you not the whole lesson to read, but a few important points to prepare well for your test. Plus, keeping your notes organized would save you a lot of bother during the examination times. If you handwriting is terrible, you can type and print it out. This way you can also revise and probably figure out something you didn’t know at the first place.
3. Watch out for extra information given on the topic.
It would be no good to write down things you already know. Occasionally, the teacher might research a topic and come up with new information and theories. Those must prominently feature in your notes. For instance, a good way of writing science notes would be a what, why, where and how column wherein you can fill up information related to the topic in your notes. One glance and you can confine the topic to your memory.
4. Write down references for further reading.
Textbooks are never extensive and often need extra reading and referencing to benefit adequately from them. Your teacher might list out a couple of sites and reference books available in the School library or in the book-store that you might want to read to acquire an in-depth knowledge about the topic. These books must be written in your notes with the author names lest you forget them. The teachers might also list page numbers to read out at times, making your job easier.
5. Use symbols and star marks to highlight important concepts.
During the lecture, the teacher often draws attention to one or more important topics saying that they are important from the examination point of view. You must be ready with either a pencil or light-shade marker in your hand to underline those areas. This will help you focus directly on the most important parts of the unit first before proceeding towards the others. If you don’t know what the heck the teacher is saying, put a big “?” beside it, and think later. When you got your own idea or epiphany, put a big “!”, or even “T!” to remind you it’ll appear on the test. Of course, feel free to invent some symbols for specific subjects, like “K” for Kelvin.
6. Use standard shorthand system to make concise note
First, you can start to practice to eliminate vowels for some words. Try this: “If U cn rd ths, u cn gt a gd jb”. Or common short forms, word beginnings like “rep” for representative, any other abbreviations you find easy to remember. You are advised to discard the period after abbreviations because they add up.
Below is a list of standard shorthand symbols that will help you out:
- >> approximately
- w/ with
- w/o without
- + and or also
- * most importantly
- Cf compare; in comparison; in relation to
- Ff following
- < less than
- > more than
- = the same as
- esp especially
- \ therefore
- b/c because
Taking effective notes is a wonderful way to get involved in your classroom proceedings and makes you focus in class. It must be encouraged amongst students and with the above mentioned tips, note-making is easier than before! Happy writing!