Five Top Tips For Better Note Taking

Taking notes is an extremely valuable skill for retaining, remembering, reciting and recalling information and it’s one that every student needs to master. Here are five top tips to help them do just that.


1. Use a Notebook, Not a Laptop


In this tech-driven age it’s far from unusual for it to seem more convenient to take notes on a laptop – or even a smartphone – instead of relying on old fashioned pens, pencils and paper. However, according to a study conducted by researchers at Princeton University in the US has note takers of all ages retain information better when they make the effort to take notes by hand.

This, the researchers concluded, is likely because those taking notes on a laptop tend to simply transcribe what they are hearing or reading word for word, while those writing things down are more likely to pay closer attention to the material to extract the most relevant information.


2. Be Prepared


It may sound rather basic but before a student goes to any class, lecture or begins a study session at home they need to make sure that they have all of their note-taking supplies on hand, to avoid distractions like scrambling for a pen or pencil while they miss the first five minutes of the teacher’s lecture.

Essentially the most basic note taking supplies include pens, sharpened pencils, a notebook or loose leaf paper and a binder. If the student is a glasses wearer they should make sure those are in place too, to avoid wasting time searching for them, or worse still squinting uncomfortably at the board trying to decipher what it says because they left them at home!


3. Learn to Be a More Active Listener


When they are taking notes, far too many students make the mistake of jotting down everything word for word, without really comprehending what is being said or what they are reading. Notes are just that, snippets of information that will, at a later date help jog the memory about the information they pertain to. Concentrate on absorbing the information the first time and while note-taking is still a must, learning the proper use of keywords and abbreviations can be extremely helpful. The student should be encouraged to only jot down individual words or key phrases that are most relevant to the topic – dates, names, theories, equations, definitions – and leave the fluff words out.


4. Get More Colourful


Many students find that making use of coloured highlighters makes their notes – and the whole process of note- taking – far more effective, especially when reviewing them at a later date. And there is actually a scientific reason for this. According to researchers, bright colours, like those found in a basic pack of highlighters – stimulate the creative side of the brain, making the notes seem more interesting and therefore the information they contain easier to retain.


5. Do a Relaxed Review


To make the most of the notes they have taken encourage your student to review them briefly just after class and then later the same day, as that will also help them retain the information more effectively. They don’t need to study them intensely though, a relaxed few minutes is really all that is needed, maybe as little as fifteen to twenty minutes every time.