Good Note Taking Habits

As a student, there will be times in your schooling when you are required to take notes on a specific subject. Be it in a lecture, class, or when watching a program on a topic you're studying - you need to get the key pieces of information down, choosing what's entirely necessary and what you don't need a record of. That's the thing about notes: they're not an exact account of what was said, but simply a tool to help you in revise. To make the note taking process more effective, there are some useful habits and techniques you can develop and apply.

The biggest mistake people make when note taking is trying to copy down everything that is said word for word. Obviously, this isn't humanely possible, as the speaker is bound to be talking more quickly than you can write. With this in mind, you must identify what information you absolutely need, and what isn't as significant. By wasting your time scribbling down worthless commentary, you could easily miss something that you may need to know come exam-time.

Still, it's easy to say just get the 'key' pieces of information down, but how do we define 'key' data? Firstly, ensure you come prepared. If you know more about the syllabus you're studying, selecting details closely related to your topic will be easier. Get all of the facts, figures, dates, times, theories, names and statistics down, as well as the key terms. In an exam situation, the examiner will want to see you not only have a strong understanding of the subject, but an impressive factual knowledge, too.

As you go along, note down if there is anything you don't quite grasp or have a question about. To deal with these problems, you have two options: consult your tutor or lecturer to ask for some clarification, or else research the matter online or using library books. But before you take down any notes, you need to think about how to represent them.

One of the most popular ways of note taking is using a simple bullet pointed or numbered list. This can be quite boring to look at, though, and so you should use highlighters or different colored pens to distinguish key facts and brighten the page. Researchers have said that you are more likely to retain information that is in color, as it will stand out and linger in the mind for longer.

Although it's quite a personal choice - people respond differently to various methods - mind mapping is a useful technique when there are relationships between various elements of a topic. On one branch, you could have information on one event, but you could link this to another branch to show that it's linked.

Whatever note taking method you opt for in the end, just remember to actually take notes, and not write an essay. Punctuality is important as well, so turn up to lectures and classes early so you don't miss anything important. A large class isn't going to wait for one or two late arrivals, and it's your own responsibility to manage your time efficiently.