Let’s take a closer look at how to study effectively for an academic degree in college and the importance of using a good note-taking template in lectures.
In high school, the teachers often just taught from the book. Students would jot down a few words and study the book and they would be fine. Students who take the same approach to note-taking in college will find themselves in a world of trouble.
The material in the books is significantly harder to understand and often, the lecture is necessary to make sense of the material. You cannot pass classes if you rely solely on the books for studying; you need to combine your lecture notes with the written material.
Frantically scribbling down notes only to find out that you cannot understand them when it is time to study, will sideline your college progress, which is why effective note-taking skills are so important.
The good news is that it is easy to learn how to hone your note-taking skills. It takes more than just writing down all that you can and then hoping that it makes sense later. You need to find a way for you to take notes that works for you. Learning how to best take notes will surely help you keep your GPA up to your standards.
Guide to effective note-taking in lectures
1. Before the Lecture
Before sitting down for the lecture, you should already have read the material. Taking notes when you have no idea of the concepts and ideas behind them is simply put, a bad idea.
Remember, lectures go hand in hand with the book so you should have already done the reading; otherwise the lecture will not make sense, and setting up a good study plan will get you through your exams.
You should do the reading ahead of time because if there is anything that you do not understand, make a note of it and if it is not covered during the lecture, then you can ask.
If you do not read your material, how will you know what you need extra clarification on? In addition, you should read any extra course material, such as handouts or view videos, etc.
If you want to take better notes, sit in the front of the class, and pay attention to every single detail. Not only does sitting up front help you from being distracted, but also it allows you to both see and hear the professor better.
Get to class early so you can get everything set up before the lecture begins, not frantically trying to set up as class begins and you’ll see that, when you’re working on a research paper, for example, it will pay off!
When it comes to how you are going to take notes, you have two options – write them by hand or use a laptop. If you have bad writing and a teacher who talks fast, consider using a laptop to takes notes on.
If the class is slower paced, such as a math class, you can usually write your notes by hand. No matter how you choose to write your notes, you might want to consider using a voice recorder to record the lecture If it isn’t available online) so you can go over later and fill in your notes if you missed anything.
Using a Dictaphone is an option too (although a bit outdated), but you’ll still need to take notes as well as download the recording on your computer. If you do this, you’ll need to set up a consistent naming convention so you can easily find the lecture recording you’re looking for quickly.
2. Taking Notes
When you are taking notes, try to organize them as you and the easiest way to do that is by using a simple outline format. The advantages of using an outline format are that you can easily see how things relate to each other.
It is easy to jot down notes in this format and if you need to expand on an idea, you can take as many lines as you need. Particularly in your freshman year, you should try to make taking notes effectively a sort of second nature.
Keep in mind, though, that your main priority is to get the notes written down, not organizing them. Do not spend a lot of time organizing your notes, you will actually go through them and do that later.
You do not need to try to write everything down! Trying to cram too much into your notes is a downfall of many students. You should be making notes of the important things only, not every single word. Understanding how to take notes effectively will also help you complete your bachelor’s degree in four years. More than half of all college students need longer than that!
Make note of anything your teacher says and that clarifies the content and the reading material. If your teacher is just going over the content but adding nothing new, you can take a better outline.
Instead of writing down every word, focus on the main ideas that get the idea across. Use shorthand, but always use the same abbreviations for every class, or else you will be scratching your head later on wondering what that abbreviation means.
If you want to use acronyms or shorted most-used phrases, write down the full phrase and then the shorthand next to it, and then use just the shorthand for it for the rest of the notes but the first time you use that abbreviation, you need to write it down.
If your instructor is referencing page numbers to your text that the lecture refers to, write them down to help link your notes and the text. Understanding how to take notes well will also help you to produce a concise and well-structured college freshman resume.
Listen for clues that what your teacher is about to say is relevant and should be written down in your notes. In your book, the important text is usually in bold, but when listening to a lecture, the clues that you should write something down are more subtle. Listen for any of the following:
- This is important because
- There are X reasons why this is…
- First reason, second reason
- Because of this
- Due to the impact of
If you are a visual learner, feel free to make small sketches and diagrams to help establish relationships between the data that you are writing down. If your instructor draws a diagram or a chart, you should always copy those down in your notes because those are things that are not typically in the book.
Later, when taking a test, these strategies will prove invaluable and you may also want to learn more about the Pomodoro Study Method, another good help to study effectively. After the lecture, if you have any questions that are unanswered from your reading, as for clarification and then write it down.
Another big mistake that students make is that they think that once they have taken the notes, that is it. They stuff the notes into their bag, or save their file on the laptop and forget about it until test time.
Your memory will be freshest right after the class. If you have the time, sit down and go over your notes right then, to make sure that you did not forget anything. Sometimes you remember something that was said that you did not get in your notes. Now is a good time to make sure.
If you recorded your lecture, later that day, go through and listen to it, and add to your notes as needed. You may also apply this when you write a research paper in college. Once you have done that, you can now organize your notes better. Redo them into a neater format, taking more care to do the outline properly.
Taking efficient notes can be a lot of work, but if you plan on completing college and getting a degree, it is necessary. The more you start doing this, the easier it becomes and soon, taking good notes will be second nature.
Split page note-taking
So I’ve already explained that taking notes during class is an important part of any course. Whether the instructor writes everything down on the board or does no writing at all, you should be jotting down notes as you go. A lot of times we take notes that really don’t explain anything.
Just about everyone has gone to their notebook to study for a test and found that the notes they took are disjointed or just don’t help to explain the material. Many times you understand something during class and jot down a quick note but by the time you go back to study you forget the details.
Split page note-taking is a technique that allows you to take two different sets of notes for the same information. It is incredibly simple to do and can yield incredible results.
The basic idea is to take a normal sheet of paper that you would take notes on and split it with a vertical line. Some people split the page in half where others leave a space no bigger than the margin on the page. Each person determines how they want to split the page based on their experience using the system.
On the right side of the vertical line, you take notes just as you normally would. In math and science classes you would work through problems on this side as well. The left side of the vertical line is for you to comment on the notes you just took. Here are some examples of what the left side of the page can be used for:
- Clarify remarks and summaries of the notes
- Comments indicating important points
- Explanation of how a problem was done step by step
- Questions about things that are unclear as reminders to ask the teacher or do more to clarify
- Rewording of notes the teacher gave that may not be clear
- Say your instructor writes down a word and gives you a specific definition they would like you to remember. This will go on the right side of the page.
- On the left side of the page, just next to this definition, you should write a definition in your own words or an example that helps to make sense of the definition.
If you are working through a complicated math or science problem you can work through the steps on the right side of the line and the explanation of each step or where numbers came from can go on the left side.
This helps you to not only follow the math and formulas used in a complicated problem but to understand why they were used as well. This is not also useful when you study math; if you study a foreign language, this technique will also prove to be pretty helpful.
Split page note-taking really allows you to personalize your notes and make your notebook more efficient. The amount of space on every page of the notebook that is saved for special notes will most likely be more beneficial to you than the original notes. Many people have a very difficult time taking good notes but practicing this technique will eventually lead you to better note-taking.
Last Updated on September 12, 2020