How to Take Good Lecture Notes
One of the keys to performing well in high school and college is good note taking. Taking good notes can make studying easier, help kinesthetic learners better retain what they are hearing, help one stay focused during boring lectures, and can serve as great reference material for the future.
Two keys to good note taking are listening and organizing. By listening carefully to the teacher and the teacher's verbal, non-verbal and subtle clues you can be better prepared for tests. By organizing the notes in a way that is easier to review later, you will cut studying time and reduce all-nighters.
Steps to Effective Note Taking:
1. Open your mind. Begin thinking of note taking as a way to free up time in your future versus busy work or a necessary evil. By taking good notes that are easy to scan at a later date you will retain the information better and save LOTS of time when it's time to study. Also, study time will be much more effective.
2, Clearly identify the notes.Write the date, the class, and the lecture topic at the top of the page.
3. Avoid writing full sentences and paragraphs. Instead think outline format and bullet points. Do NOT try to write down what the teacher or professor is saying word for word. You will likely miss hearing key information and most importantly it is not necessary. With practice you will learn the amount of information you personally need to write in order for it to trigger your memory. Write what is needed but no more.
4. Create an outline. Taking notes using an outline format forces you to be analyzing what you are hearing as you are hearing it, thereby engaging your mind in a more significant way. By converting what you hear into an outline you are essentially developing a structure for the subject matter in your own words which will allow you to learn faster and better. And it makes reviewing notes before a test much easier and faster.
5. Filter out the unimportant. As you are listening, ask yourself the following questions, "What are the keys to this topic?" and "Which of these points would every expert in the field already know?" Actively filtering in your mind what is important to learn and remember will help you get the most out of the class as well as aid in studying at test time.
6. Trust your teacher. Listen to the teacher's prompts. Some teachers will blatantly tell you "This will be on the test". If so, take the teacher at his word and put the work TEST to the left of the applicable notes (or even in the left hand margin). This will help you to easily identify KNOWN test items when reviewing your notes, making study time less stressful and SHORTER.
7. Learn to pick up on your teacher's more subtle clues. As you listen, ask yourself, "What's important to the teacher?" Take note of topics or items that the teacher spends more time on. Did she just repeat something they said earlier in the class? Did he refer to a section or page number in the book? Write down any pages the teacher calls out in class and re-read them at study time. Put "POSSIBLE TEST" next to such items since they probably have a greater chance of being on the test.
8. Highlight. When reviewing your notes before a test, highlight! This is especially important if you are a kinesthetic learner ("learn by doing"). Any physical action that you do as you read can help you retain information better. Guard against highlighting every single word (what I call, "sleep-highlighting"). Instead, actively highlight only key words to help you remember the important points.
9. Trust the process. It make look like a lot of work, but good note taking can end up saving lots of time when studying. With a bit of practice, good notes can even make pulling all-nighters a thing of the past.