1. Find a format that works for you:
The reason you take notes in class is so you can use them as a resource in preparation for an exam! Writing everything down in paragraph form or just one sentence after can really be indirectly harmful to you in the future. It’s smart to make categories or some type of outline that makes sense to you. This way you can space out your notes so you know what is in relation to the main concepts. This is where I think color coding comes in handy, it helps when you want to study the material in chunks as well!
2. Make side notes on important ideas:
I wrote a little about this in my post on how to survive the first two weeks of college, but this is so important! In all of your notes you should have stars or tick marks next to the topics that your professor reiterates time and again. If they repeat it more than once, that means its important and you need to know it so write a note. I usually write “WILL BE ON EXAM” or “KNOW FOR EXAM”!
3. Do not take notes word for word from the slides:
This is dangerous. Especially for professors who type their slides directly from the text-book. Also, if your professors make the slides available to you, print them out and take your own notes on them. Most of the time your professors are speaking while you are writing down the notes, and if you spend time writing the notes word for word you may miss some valuable information.
4. Create short cuts for yourself:
Use symbols instead of writing out complete words that have the same meaning. As in using an arrow –> for “leads to”, or using a delta sign for “the change in”. Also make sure you abbreviate your words; such as b/t for “between” and temp. for “temperature.” These are your notes, the only person who needs to understand them are you!
5. Write down questions you have during lecture:
This is more for students attending larger universities or students who are more sky and don’t like to speak out during class. If you have a question during lecture, you are likely to forget it by the end of the period. Write it down in the sidebar of your notes and ask if after class, or send it in an email. This will keep you actively thinking during lecture and also clear up anything you may be confused about!
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