It can be difficult and fun at the same time. It can be frustrating and enjoyable. It can be complicated and confusing.
Every college student has at least one professor who decides to be cruel and unusual and require them to take notes. I had a professor like that. Actually, I still do. But while it may seem like a curse, taking notes doesn’t have to be rocket science. It may be a necessary evil, but I’ve complied some steps that will hopefully make it easier!
1. Always write the date
When taking notes, never leave out the date. It may seem unnecessary now, but when you’re trying to remember what your teacher said on Monday, you’ll have the date written down to reference. If you miss a day, you’ll know exactly which notes you’ll need to catch up because that will be the date that’s missing in your notes.
And- fun tip! You can cite notes in essays. Or research papers. I know, I had no idea either! I happened to find this tip in my English book and it blew my mind. If, like me, you’re terrible at finding enough good sources for papers, you can use your notes and get at least one source out of the way. But, to cite notes, you have to have the date.
2. Use a pen AND pencil
Take your actual notes in pen, then go along when you’re studying and make extra notes in pencil. I’ve done this every time I’ve had to take notes. You can draw little pictures to help you remember the information, or make extra annotations on the side. It sounds weird, but it works. And, when you come back later to your notes, you’ll know not only what was covered in class (in pen) but also what you marked down to help you memorize it (in pencil).
3. Different colored pens
While you’re taking notes in pen, use two or three different colors to make various sections stand out. This will not only make your notes look fabulous, but will also help your brain to remember the sections better since they’re color coded!
4. Use the margins
You’ll need the margins when taking notes, because while you’re jotting down what’s actually on the board, you’ll also be listening to the teacher as he/she is talking. Use the margins to mark down extra things that you want to remember for later. These extra little notes may be life savers on a test, since many teachers use things from their lectures as test material.
5. Use outline form
The key to taking good notes is keeping them in a logical order. One of the best ways to do this is by taking your notes in outline form. Be creative with this one. You could use Roman numerals, letters of the alphabet, numbers, bullet points, or even squiggle marks or little hearts. Just about anything will work. But keeping them in some kind of outline form will go a long way into helping you have neat, coherent notes that will be easy to study.
This may seem obvious. But headings are a must when you’re taking notes. Without headings, your notes will look random and scattered. More than likely, you’ll come back and try to read your notes later on when studying, and without headings, you’ll have no idea if you’re in chapter seven or thirteen. It’ll be a whole lot more difficult to know where you’re supposed to be!
Yes, highlight. But if you’re also like me and don’t want your notes messed up by a lot of yellow or pink neon, stick to just highlighting the stuff that’s the most important. The stuff you don’t know and need to really study. Those highlighted sections will help your brain target those areas when you’re studying. And hey, sometimes highlighting can actually look pretty amazing, like these notes here:
8. Table of contents
This was a life hack I found on Pinterest, and I love it! At the beginning of the semester, while you still have an empty notebook waiting to be used, save a couple of pages in the front for a table of contents. That way, at the end of the year before finals, you can quickly go back and mark where each chapter or section begins.
9. Mark after a test or quiz
You’ll want to know where the material for the last test ended and the material for the upcoming test begins. If you quickly mark something– a line, a squiggle, a drawing of a puppy, anything– it will save you a lot of extra effort and confusion later. All I know is that I do this so I’m not studying two chapters extra of notes every time I study for a test or quiz!
10. Compare notes
If you happen to find a friendly partner in class (who also takes good notes), go ahead and ask if you can quickly compare your notes with theirs. More often than not, when I do this I find that I’ve missed something or forgotten some notes or information from class. This is a good way to make sure that you’ve gotten everything.
Good notes often lead to good grades. That’s why it’s so important to have notes that are easy to study. And it doesn’t have to be hard to take notes that are neat and comprehensive. In fact, I’ll admit– I halfway like taking notes. When you use the tips that I’ve given here, I guarantee that your notes will become better organized and less painful to review!
And can we just stop for a moment and appreciate these beautifully perfect notes?
What are your top tips for taking amazing notes? What are some things you want to do differently when you take notes? Let me know in the comments below!
♦ Xo ~ Kristel ♦