After summer break, we’re all feeling a little bit fuzzy trying to get back into the groove of things with classes, schoolwork, and studying — It’s been awhile! But time flies fast, and your first set of exams will be here before you know it. That’s why it’s super important that you’re on your ‘A’ game from the very start, and we think these note-taking strategies will help you do just that!
1. Come up with a symbol system.
The best note-takers know that short and quick always does the trick. That’s why we recommend getting familiar with a symbol system. For example, you can put a dash in front of any definitions, a question mark for things you need more information on, and an asterisk for anything super important. Skimming your notes will be so much easier.
2. Practice the Cornell method.
Cornell note-taking is probably the most popular method for organized students. You’ll have to split your page into three sections: right, left, and bottom.
Right: This is the largest section. Use this side to jot down keywords, definitions, and any other general notes while you’re listening to your lecture. Still, you should keep it brief!
Left: This section is smaller, and you can section it off by using a vertical line only a couple inches away from the left edge of your page. Take your notes from the right side, then condense them into main points and jot them down on the left. You can also use this section for any questions you have.
Bottom: Across the bottom of your page, summarize the whole day’s lecture in your own words.
Learn more about Cornell notes here.
3. Make use of outlines.
You’re probably familiar with creating outlines, but have you ever taken your notes in this manner? Outlining is a definitive way to keep your notes organized and flowing consistently. Simply start out with a main point (maybe the chapter or section title?) and then work downward by creating smaller subheadings with different learnings and points throughout your lesson.
4. Or, try mind mapping if you’re a visual learner.
If you’re stronger at visual learning, the previous two methods might not be the best option for you. Instead, try mind mapping — a diagram that uses a main point and visually shows how it relates to a whole concept. Start by writing a main point (or multiple main points) in a large circle on your page. Then as the lecture goes on, use lines to branch out the circle into smaller circles with keywords, definitions, or other information that pertains to the point it’s connected to. Learn more here.
5. Label, label, label.
Of course, you always want to label each page with the date and the chapter. Imagine trying to study when you don’t even know where to look in your notebook! That’s stressful, for sure. We recommend even more labeling, though. In addition to the chapter, make sure you label each section of the chapter. It also helps if you jot down your textbook’s page numbers for each chapter and section, in case you need to quickly reference your textbook while studying your notes.
6. Use an app.
It’s kind of surprising that we still rely on paper notes when everything else is going digital these days! That’s why we like apps like Evernote. You can type down your notes directly into the app, or you can scan any handwritten notes, upload any PDFs or videos, and even upload sketches (good news, mind mappers!).
7. Remember that less is more.
This is so important! It’s easy assuming you should jot down every last word while note taking — You don’t want to miss something important, right? But this is actually doing more damage than good. When you’re so consumed in writing everything down, you don’t leave room to actually listen and digest what you’re learning. Also, short and concise notes make it easier for you to search and skim while you’re studying. As for the little details? You can always refer back to your textbook if needed!
What note-taking strategies do you use? Share your methods with our readers in the comments below!