What is the “art of note-taking”? Well the first thing you need to know when taking notes is that this concept does not exist. A common thread in the advice we received from experts when researching this topic is that the same method of building effective study notes doesn’t work for everyone.
The one piece of information we want you to leave this article with is that understanding your own brain is the key to achieving your dream grades. That quick fix you read about may work in the short term but we want you to build skills that will help you learn throughout your life.
Table of Contents
- Effective Note-taking Strategies
- Types of Study Notes
- How to Create Summary Notes
- Expert Note-taking Advice
- Action Points
Effective Note-Taking Strategies
Jotting down every single comment the teacher or lecturer makes in class may work for some people but luckily there are other things to try if this isn’t for you. As note-taking is a skill countless students all over the world need to apply, numerous theories and techniques have been developed and tested. This means that there are a variety of activities you can apply to your learning to figure out which one or mix of things works best for you.
We’ve narrowed it down to these widely used note-taking strategies:
1. Cornell Method
The right-hand column provides a space for you to summarize the topic being discussed while you record key words and concepts in the column on the left. The summary section at the bottom will help you quickly review topics and boost your memory.
This method is beneficial as it encourages you to reflect on your study material while helping you to condense and organize your notes. You can see an example of how this can be applied to online note-taking below.
2. Split Page Method
This technique has been compared with the Cornell Method but there is a difference in the core structure of these two types of notes. As the name suggests, you divide the page vertically into two sections; the main and secondary ideas. The best thing about taking notes in this way is that you make the most out of your study time by taking notes and organizing them simultaneously.
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3. Visual Aids
Visual study aids can help you build a set of supernotes to improve the natural way your brain processes new information. A quick way to do this would be to create a mind map online to make connections, develop ideas and unleash your creativity. The ExamTime Mind Map tool allows you to move the information into a note with a single click to make note-taking an even faster practice.
4. Symbols and Abbreviations
OK when we mentioned writing EVERYTHING the teacher said earlier, we weren’t being entirely realistic. Your wrist won’t be able to keep pace with your teacher’s mouth. There is a way you can use shorthand by almost creating your own language with symbols and other abbreviations. Take a look at some examples and a full explanation of this method in our note-taking techniques blog post.
Types of Study Notes
The strategies outlined above provide a solid basis for writing class notes. Creating visual aids such as Mind Maps builds on this idea by engaging in active learning when studying at home. Here’s how to you can easily build a set of comprehensive study notes:
1. Mind Maps
Gain further insight by making connections and going deeper into the knowledge by creating mind maps. If you are a visual or even a kinaesthetic learner, using mind maps will appeal to you even more so. Use the new design features with the ExamTime Mind Mapping tool to apply your creative flair to your studies.
Flashcards are the perfect gadget to have in your student toolkit and online flashcards are even better. After making your class notes, summarize large chunks of information by inserting key words, phrases or definitions into our handy tool. Flick through your decks to quickly test your knowledge whenever you need to jolt your memory.
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Quizzes aren’t exactly study notes as such but they tie in with the process of building your study notes. By creating a quick online quiz alongside your other notes you can challenge your understanding of what you have learned in the past.
4. Online Notes
What’s the difference between online notes and class notes? There are a lot more opportunities to enrich your notes by incorporating multimedia such as graphics, videos and presentations to bring everything together. Your online note will be the place you store in-depth material on any given topic. Give it a go by creating your first online note with ExamTime here:
How to Create Summary Notes in 6 Steps
Your study time is limited but it’s also valuable so summarizing key points is a vital task in the process of learning. Aggregating study notes will help you reduce the amount of information you need to know and means that your journey to exams can be more efficient. Here’s our top note-making tips that work:
- Explore the main idea and sub-themes
- Underline essential information
- Make extra notes in the margins
- Create study notes online
- Organize your notes mentally
- Get down to work and learn
This is a quick outline of the process. For a full explanation of how to do this task, check out our full blog post on how to summarize your study notes.
Expert Note-taking Advice
A big part of our exploration into study notes strategies involved gathering advice from the people who know what works best. We talked to a variety of people in education including teachers, consultants and tech specialists to gain an insight into their expertise so you can create study notes that work for you.
Read a summary of the main points below:
1. Don’t Take Down Every Piece of Information: Most experts we talked to reiterated this piece of advice so it’s definitely valuable to know. Focusing on recording your class notes means that you’re not fully listening and absorbing new information. The more you engage in note-taking, the more you will understand how to take ‘bites’ of information in your own words without breaking your wrist!
2. Integrate Technology into Your Note-taking Routine: You can easily create useful visual study aids which will help you understand better and give you the freedom to express yourself in different ways. For example, ExamTime Notes provide a blank canvas which can be filled with graphics, videos, presentations as well as text. This means that the tool can be shaped to suit each individual student’s learning needs.
3. Schedule Alerts to revisit your Study Notes Regularly: Building a set of notes isn’t about keeping an attractive summary of your study material, you should be putting them to use as often as you can. You will need to put some work into it and review those notes as often as you can to trigger active recall.
Along with this guidance you should always question your study material as well as your note-taking process. Is your current routine really working for you? Also, try to avoid mindlessly writing reams and reams of notes by engaging in your material to get the full value of your notes.
Read all 10 note-taking tips from the experts for more ways to improve your learning.
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- Evaluate your current method of taking notes both in class and at home
- Try using the note-taking strategy which appeals to you most
- Take advantage of technology with different types of notes
- Listen to the experts and adjust your study routine
As a student, you most likely came here for a trick that will help you figure out how to achieve success by taking better study notes. Maybe you needed a jolt of reality whereby someone tells you that there are better ways to do things but it isn’t with a ‘quick fix’ solution. There will be many steps in the journey to being successful at anything and note-taking is an important rung in the ladder.
It’s mentioned in the beginning and referenced here and there throughout this article but the key to all of this working is understanding how you tick. Do you prefer visuals? Does simple, shorthand notes work for you? Maybe you find it easier to create all your notes online. Understanding the answers to these and more questions will unlock the power to becoming more productive and everything will come together. Best of luck!
What technique do you use to take notes? Share your knowledge in the comments section below.