Taking Effective Lecture Notes

laptop, notebook, working, studying
Prepare your notes ahead of time, and you will make the most out of your study session

The lecturer was engaging, the content was fascinating, and you loved every minute of that hour-long lecture. The problem? Very few of the salient points that came up during the session have actually ended up in your notes. What are you supposed to do when this happens?

Read on for how to take the most effective notes during every class:

Prepare Ahead of Time: 

You may have heard this time and time again, but there is a perfectly good reason for that. If you prepare for a class, you will get more out of it. Before lecture begins, stake out your spot and go back over the required readings. Scan through the notes you made during the last class, as a means of getting a sense of context to build the new material off of. This way, you can be sure you are focused on the lecture in order to get information that you won’t be able to just look up in the textbook later on.

What would the point in that be?

Organize Your Notes: 

Immediately after class, read over the notes you just took during that lecture. Studies have proven – as has experience – that this further cements the information into your memory and improves recall later on. Date all of your notes, give each page a topic title, and use subtitles whenever relevant.

Try to keep all of your related notes together, whether it be in a separate notebook for each subject or in a binder with subject tabs. Additionally, save all typed notes and handouts in one folder on your laptop. This will save you a lot of time later on, should you ever need to find something in a hurry.

Stick to a System: 

Some people prefer to type their notes, some record the lecturer and type them up later, and some write everything out by hand. Find a system that works for you, and stick to it. Many people have found that writing things out by hand during the lecture encourages active listening, and you can avoid the temptation of social media sites (Looking at you, Facebook!) when taking notes on your laptop.

If you do choose to write your notes out by hand, it’s best to color-code everything as a means of helping you retain more information. Using a different color for key points – or new sections – will make them stand out on the paper and in your mind. This will be very useful during mental recall when taking a test or a quiz. If you are better able to picture the writing, you will be better able to recall the information. I have found that purple is the most effective color for this.

hand, laptop, notebook, studying
Stick to a system for taking effective lecture notes

Don’t Write EVERYTHING: 

Be selective in what you choose to include in your notes. There is no need to write down absolutely everything the lecturer says, and it will just stress you out to try and keep up in that manner. If a few keywords will suffice, don’t write a whole paragraph verbatim.

Limit your lecture notes to material you do not already know, rather than wasting time writing down something you are familiar with. Listen closely, and jot down things that are relevant to the newest material or that could appear on a pop quiz. Some things to keep an eye – and ear – out for include:

·         Emphasis: Body language, repetition, pointing to something on the board…all of these indicate something important. Anything emphasized will most likely appear on a test or quiz.

·         Definitions and vocabulary

·         Anything your lecturer writes or draws on the board

·         Examples and explanations – If your lecturer takes the time to really go into something, and provide illustrations as to how it works, it’s important.

Create Your Own Shorthand: 

Using abbreviations will greatly increase your note-taking efficiency. This will help you to save time, be able to keep up, and save you from having to get a new piece of paper or turn the page of your notebook.

Pick some abbreviations, color code, or symbol system that works for you and stick to it. This will also greatly cut down on time when reading over your notes and/or revising.

person, creative, working
Use different methods of studying, to find the one that works best for you

Always Read Notes After Class: 

Type up your notes – or rewrite them – within 24 hours after the lecture ends. Turn key words and quickly jotted abbreviations into coherent sentences before you forget what you meant. Studies have proven that, if you review the information within that first 24 hours, you will remember roughly 80% of it. This is a far greater amount than if you hadn’t take the time to go over them. Such a simple habit could make the entire exam preparation a lot easier. . .and far less stressful.

Other Hints: 

Write the information in your own words, as that will help you to better grasp and retain the information.

Re-write your notes in a more organized manner after class, or later that day. This will help you go over the information, as well as ensure you have a nice set of notes for studying.

Summarize each section later on. This will sum it all up in your own words, and show that you really understand the concepts. It will also show you any gaps in understanding of the material that you may have.

Using outline formats with bullets, indentations, and numbering in order to make the hierarchical relationship between different points more obvious. Leaving space between lines makes your notes easier to scan and study with.

The Cornell method is extremely effective, especially if you do the summary at the end of each page. You can cover up the right column later on during study sessions, and your notes will make for great test preparation.

desk, notebook, pen, studying, taking effective lecture notes
Study the right way, by taking effective lectures notes each and every time

Great notes lead to effective studying. If you study effectively, you will do better on your exam – and you will have the confidence to know that you will do well. Take the time, and use this handy little guide, to create the most effective notes possible. You can do this!

What are your best tips for taking effective lecture notes? Do you have a favorite study method? 

Booklexia - copywriter and freelance content writer for hire


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