Taking good notes is essential to your success as a student. You can’t rely on your memory alone; research shows that after only 24 hours, you will have forgotten up to 80% of what you absorbed in a lecture. Regular review from effective notes, however, can reverse these numbers so that you retain at least 80% of the course material. Here are some tips on how you can help yourself to take effective lecture notes.
· Write down the date and the topic of the lecture–this will help trigger your memory when you are studying. Also, try to number the pages so that if they get mixed up, you can easily get reorganized.
· Learn to write, or if you are using a laptop, type quickly. Don’t worry about getting down every word, especially words like “a” and “the.”
· Write down definitions. If your instructor defines a term, make sure you write it down and understand what it means.
· Don’t copy outline or PowerPoint notes word for word—this is a very common problem! Students are so busy writing down every word on the slide that they stop listening to the lecture, causing them to miss information that was discussed in the lecture, but not written on the slide. It also makes proper listening impossible.
· If your instructor indicates that something is important, mark it with a “*” or in a different color–this is a strong clue that it is something that may be on the test.
· Reviewing your notes is very important. Review your notes to make sure you understand all the information and to keep it fresh in your head.
· Get help if necessary. If you’re having problems, show your professor your notes and ask for some guidance. Or stop by your campus study skills center and have someone go over your notes with you.
· To be an effective note taker, you have to be a good listener. A great tip is to listen for the main ideas and concepts of the lecture so that you can determine what should be included in your notes.
· When you’re having trouble grasping a concept, take a deep breath and ask for clarification from the instructor. Chances are, you’re not the only one having difficulty understanding it.
· Sit close to the instructor. You’ll be able to hear more clearly, and distractions will be minimized and it’s easier to get the instructor’s attention for questions and comments.
· Use abbreviations–developing your own set of abbreviations and symbols will save you time in class. For example, w/o=without, or b/c=because.