Taking notes is an extremely valuable skill for both recalling and understanding information and it’s one that every student needs to master. And that is not just true for young students, older students in higher levels of tertiary education – for example law students preparing to take the bar with the hope of joining a prestigious firm in your chosen field – such as estate and elder care law – can still benefit from upgrading their note taking skills. Here are five top tips to help you 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 undertaken and published by researchers at Princeton University note takers of all ages understand and retain information significantly more if they take handwritten notes.
This, the researchers concluded, is likely because if you are taking notes on a laptop you will tend to just directly transcribe what you are hearing or reading verbatim, while those writing things down are more likely to pay closer attention to the material to jot down only the most relevant information. That, and if you’re anything like me, an open laptop is an invitation to distractions of all kinds.
2. Be Prepared
It may sound rather basic but before a student goes to any lecture or class or even 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. To make your notes more useful, 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 Colorful
Many students find that making use of colored 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 colors, 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. You 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.