How to take better notes

notebook and pens for taking notes

There are a lot of things that the most successful students have in common and one of them is note taking. The best students are good at metiulous note taking. Everyone can learn to take great notes and even though note taking is not innate, it is not rocket science either.If you want to be one of the best students, taking good notes is the first step.
Make sure to use a method – it doesn’t matter much which, but don’t risk the chaos brought on by the absence of a method.

We are going to teach you some welll known and widely used methods like Cornell note taking, but please feel free to combine them or even use them as a stepping stone to invent your very own.


Cornell Method

The Cornell method is one of the most widely used note taking methods. As you can see in the picture, you put your name, date (subject) and page number at the top of the page then you simply divide up your notebook pages into 3 sections. The right column is the general area. This is where you keep your key facts and ideas that the teacher/tutor covers in class. One thing to keep in mind is that when taking notes it is best to summarize and use short hand. That will help you keep up with the teacher’s pace without losing important information and making studying easier since you will not have to waste time separating important from unimportant information. The left column is where you record facts or ideas that pop into your head as you take notes or afterwards. These ideas will usually relate previous lessons or even different subjects to the current lesson. Whereas the last section- the one labeled “summary” in the picture above, is the one reserved for use when you review your class notes. You will write the main facts and ideas from that lesson- what you learned from that lesson. You should write this section after you have studied your notes and from memory. It is very important that you don’t look at the notes while writing the summary section. That way you will accomplish two tasks: 1. You will review and cement the crucial information from that lesson in your memory and 2. prepare a study guide for your exams/quizzes. If you follow this steps, you will have complete and organized notes, review every lesson systematically and always be prepared for any kids of examination.

Split Page Method

This type of note taking is similar to the Cornell one, but just a little simpler and less structured. The way it works is you put your name, subject, date and page number at the top of the page just like you do with Cornell, but then you only split the page in two identical vertical columns (draw a vertical line in the middle of the page).
You use one column to write your notes as the teacher is explaining in class and the other column to summarize ideas or connect to previous lessons or other subjects. Most likely you will end up writing your notes on one side (say the left side) and use the right side of the page for your summary notes after your have reviewed your notes. The left side in this case would be what your consult as you prepare for examinations or quizzes.

Mind maps

This method makes use of visual aids to help the brain process new information and synthesize existing information. You draw ideas and information in shapes (look at the simple example above) and try to connect them visually. You may create as many branches as you think are necessary and create as many layers as you need based on the information you are being provided with.
This method also works well with color coding and using different shaped letters. For example, you may use green for all cities where the first Crusaders stopped but red for all the cities the first Crusaders engaged in a battle. You may use block letters for all important names and curly numbers for all the dates there were of some significance during the first crusade, but you may want to use your normal handwriting to write the birthdays of important people in yellow color.
This method works very well when taking down voluminous notes that have a lot of different threads. This is a wonderful method for history, English, biology, anatomy etc.
You need to make sure to practice a few times before you rely on this method for your class notes as it may take some getting used to. You need to develop a personal legend so to speak for things that you encounter frequently and you really need to brush up on your shorthand because you can only fit the essence of the information you are trying to record.
Once you figure it out though, this method enables you to get a birdseye view of the most relevant information for each lesson in possibly one or two pages.
Please keep in mind that your notes do not have to look the picture above. That is just an example. You can use simple diagrams, graphs, or even color coded lists. The idea is to represent information visually in a logical and highly organized way. After all, it is true that one picture is worth a thousand words.
We hope you find this note taking methods useful. Please let us know what you think in the comments below and good luck!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email