The secret to great note taking skills

Studydriveon 9 October 2020
Person taking notes

Taking notes is an essential part of the study process. Check out Studydrive's tips for mastering the art of note-taking.

Being a student is a whole new adventure, but hey, it’s a great one! If you just want to upgrade your note-taking skills or if you’re realising you’ve never properly learned how to take notes - Your small guide to taking amazing, effective notes is finally here. You can now look back at what you scribbled down in class and wave goodbye. 

And what if you’re already a master note-taker and your study notes are top-notch? Then become a course expert at Studydrive now and earn up to £500 by sharing your materials!

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Take notes with a pen - even on an electronic device

A paperless world? We live in times where tablets, smartphones and screen pencils are not science-fiction anymore. So why not mix the best of both worlds and write down your longhand notes digitally, saving a lot of time and paper mess? Tablets are not only great for note-taking, they're also really useful for reading. So all your textbooks are on it too - wherever you go.

By the way... Students, scientists, teachers and even moms have been wondering and debating if using a laptop is better than taking notes the traditional way. The long answer is: quite complicated. The short answer is: according to studies from 2010 and 2014, students who take notes on a laptop are more likely to simply copy what their teacher says during class. Since your brain is kind of just dumping the words onto the keyboard, information is processed much slower, therefore blocking your learning. Students who took notes longhand performed much better on conceptual tests compared to the laptop dumpers.

Grid paper is your biggest friend

Grid paper is fantastic when it comes to making your notes look neat and organised. It also helps to save spacing between the lines which is useful for those of you with small handwriting.

Use erasable pens

When it comes to stationery, it’s suggested to use erasable pens. This way you don’t have to cross over any mistakes, and you can change your notes and wording as often as you like. Bye, bye scrabble papers!

Use symbols, headlines and icons

Visually appealing notes save time as you don’t have to try to figure out what you’ve been writing. Always start on a fresh page when a new class or topic begins. Line each page with a pen and ruler, giving yourself a wide margin on the left-hand side - nobody likes cramped notes. Symbols like arrows, dots and boxes are often a fantastic way to associate and remember key concepts - especially for visual learners. 

Focus on the essentials

The very best tip to take your note-taking skills to the next level is to focus only on important keywords and the main concepts. First, identify relevant information: Write down words or key phrases that you believe are extremely relevant to the topic and eliminate all the filler words. Then think about what you want to retain from this class, course or book.

Never forget that you are taking notes in order to learn something from them. And finally, prioritise any new things you hear and focus on writing down all of what you've never learned before. Don't waste time writing down information that you already know. Only the new information is of value. 

Use the "question, answer, evidence" method

This technique of paraphrasing information helps you to engage with the study topic while writing and allows you to describe the subject in your own words. Instead of copying down line after line, listen carefully to what the lecturer says. Then formulate your notes as a series of questions raised by the material and fill in your answers with your own words.

Add a splash of colour to your notes

Colour stimulates the creative side of our brains - the right hemisphere - making notes much more appealing and easier to commit to memory. Colour coding helps you to link colour with memory and stimulates your brain in different ways. Green helps with concentration. Orange is great for motivation. Red helps with creativity and memory. And the colour blue pushes also creativity but especially productivity.

Write a short summary

Writing a brief summary at the bottom of the page where you focus on the main ideas and the ones you have found to be the most difficult ones. This helps for your own understanding and for remembering quicker when learning with your notes later.

Review your notes later in the day

Just spend 10 to 15 minutes going over your notes to fill in any blanks or add some additional information. This will help you memorise the new information better. It also saves time as it makes you rewrite some unclear ideas directly instead of sometime later when you would need to find the correct resources again. We hope these tips help you to improve your note-taking process.

Never forget that everyone’s brain works a little differently - which means what might work for your friend won’t necessarily work for you. Start new ways of note-taking, experiment with techniques and find out what works best for you. You’ve got this!

And if not – we have something for you: just study with the marvellous notes from your fellow students. On Studydrive you find more than 450k free study materials for your courses and exams. You can take part in helpful (and fun) discussions with your classmates and study as easily and successfully as possible - even on the go with the Studydrive app. Sounds great? Then join today for free!

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Studydriveon 9 October 2020