“Notes taking in the class is an art“ – One of my professors said this recently. He was boasting that during his college life he had made the best notes that he still treasures in his closet.
But is notes taking really that difficult?
And for those of you who don’t take notes during your lectures, it is time you start doing it. Many of you will be starting your colleges this year. So, ensure that you know the right methods so you can ace in your exams!
I started taking running notes from my school days. Thanks to a few teachers who forced us to take notes! I remember we had a teacher who used to speak so fast we would miss half of the words.
However, it was due to her classes, I learned how to take proper notes with all the important information from the class. You may even use the apps for notes taking but for now, I would say you stick to manuals.
Why do you need to take notes during a college lecture?
If you are right out of your school and thinking college will be easy like your school, you are so wrong! Start with your college days, you will understand! Maybe you will have fun but the studies and exams will double up. So, be prepared!
There are lot many distractions in college compared to school. This is all because you have much more freedom in college. And since you are adults, the lecturers and the professors won’t say much to you. They don’t have the responsibility to ensure that you pass the degree with a good score!
And so they will come lecture and leave.
Most of the times, the exam questions are related to what they lecture. So, if you miss the lecture, you may not be able to answer in the exams. Therefore, it is essential that you take proper notes during the lectures.
How to take lecture notes properly?
You will have two options:
- To write it down on your notebook.
- To type it on your laptop!
Now if your institute doesn’t allow you to carry your laptop, then you have one option left. I have done both typing and writing and I do prefer writing down.
I started typing down notes during my online classes. It was quite tiring, to be honest! Not that I don’t have a good typing speed. But it’s just tiring. So, I would recommend you, people, to stick to a notebook and pens only.
Moreover, I have read on some medium article that you retain more information when you write down your notes instead of typing. It was based on an experiment! So, yeah if you wish to remember those lectures you better write it down.
However, it is completely up to you. If you are used to typing, then go for it!
Here are my top tips for handwriting notes during lectures:
1. Have separate notebooks for each lecturer
Don’t do it if you have too many lecturers though! :p In that case, have a notebook for each paper, that will suffice. Carry them every day to your class!
No need to buy too thick notebooks. Just make an estimation according to your handwriting and the number of lectures you will have. Buy accordingly!
I prefer long white notebooks. No need to buy the costly classmate notebooks. You are fine with the regulars. Ensure that the ink doesn’t bleed through.
On the cover of each notebook, have your name, roll and the paper name and number. This is for you and in case you lose it. Don’t try to lose it any cost though.
Believe me, losing your notebook just before the exams is disastrous. So, what you can do is have them photocopied or just rewrite them in a separate notebook and keep that at home. Yes, I am that much mad!
2. Use different colored pens
By different colour pens, I don’t mean use pink and purple. Use two colours which are readily available – Blue and black. Ensure that you are comfortable with the grip and flow. You will need to write way to fast so it’s better you are comfortable with your weapons of writing. Believe me, it’s similar to a battle!
Have the headings and important lines in black and the rest in blue. Alternatively, just underline the important lines with the black one. It saves more time. Having different colors on your notebook will not only make it look pretty but will help in memorizing important points.
3. Draw Diagrams
I absolutely love this trick. It saves time and helps you understand concepts at just one glance! So, whatever you can draw, draw! Don’t always write. Moreover, it will make your notes look more organized.
By drawing diagrams, I mean use bubbles, circles, lines, arrows to describe any process. For science students, things will be different! I am talking about arts students. That’s why I told to use white notebook. You will be able to draw properly on these.
Is there any important formula? Write it in black circle or rectangle it. Later if you want use glitter pens to highlight any super important stuffs. But do this after the class not during the notes taking process.
4. Keep that phone away, I mean it!
Don’t try to be a multitasker here. I know you can multitask but please keep that phone away. No matter how important message that is, you can deal with it later. If it’s very important the person will call you, so no issue.
Phones during classes are nothing more than distractions. We had one professor who would enter the class and first say, ‘Phones away’! Used to feel like Snape telling ‘Wands away’. :p But yes, having the phone away will help you focus better.
As your brain is already doing three task – Listening, writing, and understanding, don’t make it do another job. You will become mentally tired. So, avoid it at any cost. Make your notes taking easier for yourself!
5. Label properly
First of all, jot down the date of the lecture, the initials of the lecturer and the name of the topic. It is important. One fine day, your lecturer would say ‘You were not present in that class of mine’ you can show the note to him or her to prove. So, always be prepared!
Write the topic properly. Don’t write one word. If it’s something descriptive, write a few more words so that you can understand later. You are taking notes for yourself, not the whole class, so make sure that you are understanding it properly later.
When you will revise before the exam it will become easier for you to remember and understand everything quickly.
And now, Here are my tips for Typing notes
First things first, Type only if you have a good typing speed.
1. Use the Headings options generously
Just like I said about labelling, you need to do that here as well. So, use the H1, H2.. and so on properly when you type your notes. Try to use one single font. Generally, the headings option is just on the top or you can learn the shortcut keys to do it quickly while you are typing!
2. Use the shortcut keys
You need to be quick. So, going to the menu bar and selecting is too time taking. Memorise the shortcut keys and use them as often as possible. If you are good in typing you might already know them.
And if you don’t, just learn it and use it for a few times, you will get the hang of it soon!
3. Same font
I like to use the very old TIMES NEW ROMAN only! But it’s up to you what you prefer. My preferences changed over time. Before I was all about using Comic Sans, but now I prefer Times New Roman. I use the size 14 most of the time. But whatever is best for you to choose.
4. Click Ctrl + S often
If you have an auto saver that’s great. There are many notes taking app these days so no problem. But if you are using the word, use this often. I have got the habit of it now.
You never know when your system will betray you and you might lose all your hard work. So, always save often!
5. Use spaces and enter button
Use spaces and enter often when you type. It will make things easier for you to understand. When you break things up it’s much easier to read and this has been proven by studies.
Visual dividers are easier to read. So, use them often. If you are seeing that a paragraph is going too long, with too many words, press enter!
6. Seperate folders and files
Don’t keep all the word files in a single folder. Save them in different files with the name of the paper or the lecturer. It will be helpful in finding out quickly if you need anything.
Moreover, it can be overwhelming when you have to find a single note from the long list especially when you forget what you named it.
How to take Textbook Notes properly?
You will have to follow a lot of books when you are in college. Unlike school, there won’t be any particular book or books that are mandatory to follow. You will be given some recommendations perhaps in the syllabus but you are free to choose the one you like.
You can even ask the professors and lecturers for their recommendations. Or just go to the library and see which one has been issued too often! You will know that is the one.
Once you have the book, only reading won’t do the trick. But I would suggest you go through the whole book. Just simple reading like you will read storybooks. But since you don’t have that much time just skim through it and jot down the important points.
Here are my top tips for taking notes from textbooks
1. Find the topics you have in your syllabus
Go through the index and see whether it has the topic you require or not. If it’s a book from the library you will find that someone has already marked the topics making it easier for you. Although I know it’s illegal, but it’s good for the students.
2. Bullets and re-writing important points
Read through the topic with full concentration! And find important points. Write them down in bullets instead of paragraph. This will be helpful when you revise.
3. Leave space on each page
When you are following more than one book on the same topic, it may happen you get some extra information later. In such situation, you may have to write it down in under the same heading!
So always keep ample space available on the page so you can jot down any new information in that extra space.
This is something I learned much later. Wish I had known before. As I didn’t keep enough space, I had to write it on a separate page and it was difficult to study or revise like that!
Also, after writing down a note from a textbook, go through it minutely. If after reviewing you feel there is something else required. Add it on those extra space you have left.
4. Jargon page
Every subject has its own terminology and jargons. If the subject is completely new to you, you may not always remember every jargon. Moreover, we also come across some new words when we are taking notes from the textbook. So, make a separate page for that where you will write them down with their definitions and meanings!
That’s all with the tips. But if you really wish to get good scores for your exam you need to study and revise. Taking notes is just half of the battle! You need to study them regularly. Make schedules and study each topic properly!
If you have your college near your home then you are lucky. So, when you go home try to read all the lecture notes of the day! And get some textbook notes taking done as well.
For people who are staying far away from college, I know you guys will become tired after coming home. So, just sleep early that night and wake up early in the morning and study those notes. Prepare for the day!
And yes, use the weekend properly! Don’t always go out with friends. Limit those outings.
When you revise the notes and don’t understand the concept sent a quick message and e-mail to the respective professor. Don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify. Their job is to explain to you. So, ask them!
Remember, what you learn in your college will help you a lot in your profession ahead. So, learn all the necessary skills there. Talk to the seniors, learn from them! Ask them for extra notes and advice if required! They will always help you.