Make Your Note-Taking More Effective

Taking notes is an important part of any class. The power of effective note-taking is often underestimated. However, this is a crucial step in making the most of your education.

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Learnt material gets forgotten as early as 20 minutes after having received the information. The image above shows in detail how the forgetting process works without revision.

Let’s say that, on day 1, all information is absorbed and 100% of the most important material’s memorised. The rest is thrown out of your brain. By day 2, 50-80% of information is lost. And, if one continues to ignore their notes and not bother with the lesson, then by the end of the month only 2%-3% of the lecture is remembered.

So, in short, all the fun, interesting, and exam-crucial knowledge is lost forever and you’ll have to start re-learning the material over again. Not worth it, is it?

You know what you’ve to do? That’s right. Take notes, review them, rinse and repeat.

Slapping words on paper that you’re later not even able to read just won’t do. And highlighting, as Association for Psychological Science found, is actually ineffective. So, here are some tips on taking a proactive approach on note-taking.


Listen and come prepared

This one may come off as an unexpected step. But did you know that 80% of acquired knowledge‘s memorised only by listening? So, how do you listen? With your ears, yes, but there’s a bit more to the process.

As you listen, try to grasp the most important content and concepts. What are the main ideas that are repeated at the lesson? Rephrase the context, so you get a slightly different sentence but with the main point unchanged. This way you get to remember the crucial bits better because they’ll be phrased in your own words.

Don’t forget to ask questions, even if they sound silly. Chances are, someone else in class wants to get an answer to the exact same thing, but is too shy to ask.


Record the lesson

You can ask your professor for permission to record the lecture on an electronic device. Not all are willing to allow this for various reasons, but it’s one way to help you with note-taking. You can re-listen to the audio at any time and if you weren’t quick enough with writing down a few notes, you can come back and edit them at a later time.

Because of this method, you’re not going to feel anxious and lost about missing a few bits of information during your lessons. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to listen to the lecture anymore. This is only one of many ways to ease your note-taking life.

With that being said…


Take notes right here, right now

We take notes to summarise, point out important information and to review it later. Don’t lie to yourself; you’re definitely not going to come back to the summarising part after class. Homework will pile up, chores will have to be done, some of you have to go to work – there simply won’t be any time for after-class note-taking.

That’s why it’s important to write down the most important pieces of information during the lesson. If your professor says it’s okay to not take notes during class, then be a rebel. You can do it. I believe in you.


The Cornell Method

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There are many different ways to take notes. The Cornell Method is popula; research shows that it helps students answer high-level questions.

Check out the sample above. As you can see, it requires you to separate the sheet into three columns: questions/keywords, notes, summary. This provides a simple layout for your notes that’s easy to go through later on.

You’re unlikely to end up with writing that you can’t later read. This is an organized way to learn new material, and when note-taking’s included, then organization is key.



You’ve heard this one many times before, but do repeat and re-read what you’ve written. We forget our notes very easily, but with short repetitions, it’s possible to bring the information back up to 100%. You don’t have to spend hours and hours on your notes. Just read through them and memorise the main points of the lesson.

Good luck!


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