I want to offer you five quick tips to take better notes. If you are just starting to work on your note-taking skills, head over to the Note Taking Series first so you know how to craft good notes that will make studying easier.
Five Quick Tips for Better Notes
- Preview the reading. Spend 1-2 minutes and skim through the material. Look at headings to see what the major concepts will be. Use these to help check your understanding by turning the heading into a question.
- Jot down facts which are new to you. (terms, dates, names, etc.). By making a short note of these you are actually building yourself a custom study tool to work on memorization for the exam. If you don’t make note of them, how will you ever know what you need to memorize?
- Look for cues in the text. Words like “3 steps to…”, bold words, or italicized words can indicate important information.
- Make note of questions you have about concepts. Just make a note, flag it as a question, and keep moving. This keeps you from getting stuck on one thing for too long, but you also won’t forget it was fuzzy. You’ll be able to come back later and decide if it does make sense after reviewing more of the resource or if you need to dig back into the area.
- Build your notes in question/answer form. Use the objectives and/or headings to give you some starting questions and work to answer them in your own words. These also convert really well on quizlet.com for easy review.
And remember to always keep your notes short. No paragraphs allowed, and incomplete sentences are encouraged. (When does a professor ever say that?) Check out the difference in long notes vs. short notes and feel how one is heavy and overwhelming while the other is much easier to look over quickly and review for an exam:
Wait, now we have 6 tips. Bonus!
Get more quick tips for taking notes, and remember that study skills like note-taking are only a small piece of being successful in college. Don’t forget to focus on the biggest factor in college success.
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Try It Yourself: 30-minute Challenge
- Grab your textbook, notebook, and a pen.
- Do a quick 2-minute preview to get an idea of what is covered in the upcoming chapter.
- Using the other tips above, take notes on the chapter.
- Review your notes. Are they short? Will they help you to study for the exam a couple weeks down the road?
What tips do you have for taking better notes in college? Leave me a comment and let me know what is working for you.