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Note Taking 101

1 Key Principle

Less is more. Faithfully recording every word spoken by your instructor will not help you very much. Note taking is about figuring out what is most important so that your study time will be focused and productive.

2 Helpful Tricks

1) Come up with a shorthand. Learn how to consistently abbreviate certain words that you use often, leave out words that aren’t necessary for understanding meaning, and using symbols whenever possible.

2) Underline or highlight key points. This can be done as you write notes or as you are reviewing them later. This should especially be done when notes are provided to you by the teacher and you did not have to write them in the first place.

3 Strategic Methods

1) Cornell Method: Divide the page into three sections. During class, take notes on the right and identify corresponding main ideas out to the left. Later, review those notes and write a short summary of the key points for greater reflection and retention.

*Bonus Tip: You can fold your paper to hide either the key terms column or the supporting details/ examples column from view in order to quiz yourself as you study.

2) Outlining Method: Start at the left margin writing down main ideas. Supporting info and details that relate to each main idea should be indented underneath. Each new level should indent further and use a different letter or symbol. Anytime a new main idea is introduced, return to the left margin.

*Bonus Tip: You can combine this method with the Cornell method. Also, practicing note taking this way can help you practice organizing your thoughts for written assignments.

3) Visual Aid Method: Use pictures, graphs, charts, diagrams, flowcharts, etc., to organize your information as you write it. This works especially well for info that is sequential, categorized, or conceptually related in a certain way.

*Bonus Tip: Repackaging in a visual format notes you have already taken in another format or notes provided to you can help you learn and recall it better. Use colors meaningfully to add another layer of effectiveness to this method.