Does note taking aid in learning?
Are you a serious notes taker or one who takes it just for name sake? Have you been in a situation when the notes you’ve taken hasn’t been handy before the exams? Wondered why? I’ll demystify the process of taking notes and how effectively you can master the art.
Why note taking helps?
Statistics says that human brain has the tendency to lose almost 40% of the information gathered within 24 hours. The best way to avoid information loss is to take quick and effective notes. Note taking also helps to avoid the rate of forgetfulness. More the interaction with the notes (in any form), lesser the rate you will forget what was taught.
On deeper observation, the main problem in note-taking is the lack of understanding of its actual purpose. Note-taking doesn’t mean writing down everything that’s being said. Doing this will make you more focused on note-taking than actually listening.
So, what exactly is the purpose of note taking?
The aim of taking notes is quite simple: on reading the notes, you must be able to recollect what was said during the lecture. Notes help you to learn quickly. When taking notes, you must stay focused and understand the context of what’s being said. Taking down unwanted piece of information will only make it difficult when you are referring them before your exams. You’ll be wasting time skimming through unwanted content.
Taking effective notes
Be it a classroom lecture, a seminar or a conference –remember to take down notes of only what’s important.
- Jot down the main (key) points – Give importance to the main points from the presentation or what the professor/speaker says during the talk. You must be able to recollect the statements at the end of the lecture by just reading the notes.
- Keywords, definitions, dates, statistics–If you come across any important definitions or keywords, make a note of it so that you can go back and read more about it in detail. Take a note of statistical information and important dates from the lecture as they are vital information specific to the topic.
- Gestures and emphasis on words – Stay alert on emphasis thrown on specific words by the teacher, words that are repeatedly used/written on the board as they can indicate something very important.
- Use short forms and abbreviations – This is something I practice religiously when taking notes. Use abbreviations and symbols wherever possible to save time when taking notes. Few examples – e.g. for example, w/o for without, @ for at, & for and, # for number, and so on). After working with thousands of students on memory techniques and deeply observing their behaviors, I have seen that most students tend to use short forms and abbreviations to a great extent and have found it useful.
- Use bullet & sub-bulleted lists – Take notes in bullet points rather than long paragraphs. For example, when the teacher says, “There are 4 types of ….”, immediately use a numbered list to jot down the list of 4 items. This helps to recollect the information easily and correlate with what was taught during the lecture.
Which method should you follow for taking notes?
There are proven note taking methods such as the Outlining method, the Cornell method, mapping methods, Charting method, and so on. While we will not get deep into each technique, I’ll list out couple of my favourite note taking methods that will suit everyone.
Outlining Method –The most popular note taking method. You can organize the notes in a structured way using bullet lists. The lecture title/topic will be the heading level and further points can go as bullets/sub-bullet points (with proper indents). Gives a clean structure and important points can be easily highlighted.
Cornell Method – Divide your notebook into three sections – Notes, Cue and Summary. Take down notes in the notes section (you can still follow the outline method). At the end of the lecture, add the keywords and questions in the cues section. Try to answer the questions by recollecting the points from notes section “without seeing the content”. Validate the cues and notes section. Finally, summarize the points in the summary section.
Every individual has their own way of taking notes. It may not be easy to replicate what the other person is up to. It’s important to decide the right note taking method. All methods have their pros and cons and it’s up to you to get accustomed and use it. Once you master the skill, learning becomes lot more easy!