You’re in college already – you’ve spent quite some time taking notes in class and it’s not such a big deal, right? Well, have you stopped to think about how effective your notetaking methods truly are?
If you’re trying to write down everything your teachers are saying in a lecture, paragraph after paragraph, like you’re writing a novel, you’re doing it wrong. Of course, this is the worst case scenario we’ve described here, but do take a moment to analyse your own technique and see if there’s room for improvement. With the right note taking strategies, you can easily remember the most important information and make your studying more effective. Check out the 7 best systems recommended for college students:
1. The Sentence Method
The sentence method entails writing every new topic, idea or fact on a separate line and numbering each as you progress. It’s slightly better structured than writing in paragraphs and allows you to get most of the information, but it still makes it rather difficult to assess the major and minor points and the connections between them. The method works best for somewhat organised lectures that are rich in content and presented at fast pace.
2. The Outline System
This is a note-taking technique preferred by many college students as it keeps everything well organised and is easy to skim through. It entails simply writing down the main topics and subtopics, with a few details where necessary. Identifying the ideas and their hierarchy can be done by numbering them, indenting the text or using dashes and bullet points. Outlining is effective as it also records the relationships between ideas rather than just the content itself, but it requires a bit more time to create and, thus, it works best in slower-paced lectures.
3. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping has become quite a trend in many fields, and it’s getting more and more popular as a college note taking strategy too – and for good reason. It is basically a graphic representation of the information and the way in which all ideas connect to each other. Since the brain seems to be quite keen on visual cues, the method will help you understand and retain information much more easily. You can use different colours or even drawings if time allows it, to highlight the main points even better and have a bit of fun while at it.
4. The Cornell Method
Invented decades ago, the Cornell system remains one of the most popular and effective note taking techniques. How does it work? Split the page into 3 sections. The space on the right will be the general area where you’ll be writing the most important ideas. Use the left-hand section to label the ideas on the right with a “cue” or a keyword, while the bottom section will be a short summary of the lecture and should be filled out after class, after reviewing the notes. As you can see, the system is simple but efficient, allowing you to save time and effort, while also grasping the main points more easily.
5. The Split Page System
Similar to the Cornell Method, the Split Page system entails splitting the page in two, vertically – a column for main points (instead of just one keyword or “cue”) and one for secondary ideas. While the keyword section used in the Cornell method is often completed after class, as it requires a bit of thinking, the Split Page strategy allows you to keep everything well-structured and organise all ideas simultaneously during the lecture.
6. The Charting Method
The charting method works best for lecture that entail comparing and contrasting two or more concepts or ideas. Draw a table consisting of as many columns as there are ideas or concepts that will be compared, and make sure to label every column appropriately. As the professor talks, you simply write down the notes in the appropriate section. Piece of cake!
7. Symbols and Abbreviations
However you decide to structure your notes, you will encounter classes that are simply too fast paced for you to write down all the main points – not to mention the wrist pain you can get from all that frantic writing. Therefore, it is essential to develop your own system of symbols or abbreviations to help you record more, faster and with less effort. Until you get the hang of it, it may be difficult to understand your “language”, but you can always translate the notes after class, while your memory is still fresh.
These 7 methods are known to be incredibly helpful, but some may work better for some students than others. Therefore, give each of them a try, adapt them to your own style if necessary, and stick with the strategy you feel most comfortable with. You’ll see that smart note taking can make a world of difference for your academic success!