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Cheat Sheet: 6 Hacks to Keep In Mind When You’re Taking Notes

Cheat Sheet: 6 Hacks to Keep In Mind When You’re Taking Notes



By Daniel Baysa
Chalk Campus Correspondent 

Every student knows the pain of taking down notes. It’s hard to split your attention between listening to your teacher and then scribbling everything down as fast as you can to help you study. Here’s some things to note when taking down notes:

1. Digital or physical, pick your method and stick to it.

More and more classes these days are allowing students to bring their laptops, either because it’s an integral part of the course or simply for the convenience of taking down notes. Taking down notes in Word or whatever application you use for allows for easy organization and editing, true, plus it might save on paper and space in your bag if you don’t have to bring notebooks and pens for every course. Don’t forget notebooks completely though: They take up less space on your table and don’t need battery to use, quite important if you can’t find a plug in a 3-hour class or if you suddenly need to study in a brownout or away from home. Whichever one you pick, try to separate your notes: Whatever method you pick for the first day of one of your courses, stick to it for that course until the last.

2. Write what is said, not just what’s already written.

Some people use what’s written on the board or on the PowerPoints for their notes. Depending on your teacher, that might not be enough. If your teacher gives some important info, facts, tips, or analogies that aren’t in the PowerPoint, it’s better to take those down, too. 

3. Don’t write everything down.

Of course, you can’t write everything down. Even if you have the hands quick enough to scribble everything your professor says, that won’t help at all. Keep what you do write short and to the point. It’s best to list things in short phrases and bullet points instead of whole sentences unless they’re really important. How do you distinguish what’s worth taking down and what’s worth skipping? That’s up to you to figure out by listening!

4. Keep headings in mind.

Separating parts of the lectures into sections based on subtopics can make reviewing infinitely easier. It allows you to look back at specific parts, while associating info with certain big topics in mind makes it easier to remember. Even things as simple as writing down dates can help you keep track of what you need to review for tests. If your syllabus separates topics into different sets for long tests or long exams, make sure to leave proper labels for those as well.

5. Give yourself space.

Walls of text are never nice to look at, so give yourself breathing room between your notes. Keep small chunks of info related to a topic together, then have a line break or two to make things look less intimidating when you review. Give bigger line breaks for more important changes, and try not to write all the way to the bottom of the page or slide.

6. Write It All Again

The hurried pace of writing notes in class might lead to some mistakes on your first run. Writing it all again can help solve these problems. Get some clarification and inspiration from your other classmates on what you found confusing. Summarize and organize everything in a way that’ll make reviewing easier, be it in making your own PowerPoints, pictures, or infographics. You haven’t truly understood something unless you can easily summarize it, so make sure you can get this down. All this will help you in better remembering and reviewing what you learned.

A common practice for teachers these days is to send their students copies of the PowerPoints used in class to help review. This might cause some students to forget about writing their own notes completely. Don’t fall into the same trap. Note-taking is just as important as taking any quiz or submitting any paper. It helps you listen better, organize better and remember better as you make the effort to put your prof’s words on paper.

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