How to take effective notes

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One of the reasons you don’t take notes down it’s because you convince yourself that you’ll remember everything. However, like Ben Casnocha said, “If you don’t write down what you’re hearing and learning, what’s the odds you remember it?” I’ll leave that for you to answer. Note-taking has many benefits that cannot be overemphasized. In addition to better assimilation and improved memory, some of the benefits of note-taking include:

  • It helps you study better as a student because there is a reference point. Consequently, you’ll do better in your tests and exams. 
  • Furthermore, it improves your ability in comprehension and summary. Taking notes involves listening and writing. Doing this over and over enhances mastery and improves your ability to comprehend better what is being said. 
  • Note-taking also improves your focus in class. You’re listening, learning to understand, and then writing down what you understand from what’s being said. Your mind doesn’t wander when the speaker is talking thus improving your focus and understanding. 
  • Again, note-taking also improves your communication skills. When you take notes effectively, you’ll get to differentiate the main ideas from the deviations. Your mind also works to best translate what’s being said in a way you understand. This improves your vocabulary and your communication skills as you can adopt it personally. 

Having understood the benefits and importance of effective note-taking, let’s now explore the tips to take note of for you to improve your note-taking skills. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when we share our next article. 

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Tips for effective note-taking

We have carefully curated the tips below to help you improve your note-taking skills. Applying the principles will ensure you master the art of note-taking leading to an overall improvement of your performance at work and in class. These tips include:

1. Start by getting the right note-taking tools

The step to effective note-taking is identifying and employing the right tools. With the right tools, you will be as effective as you want to be. Traditionally, a journal/note and a pen would have been perfect, however not everyone would be as fast to use a pen and paper. Moreover, the advent of technology has improved the way notes can be taken. Employing tools like OneNote, EverNote, and Google Keep will go a long way in helping you take notes effectively. However, if you are in a corporate event that requires accuracy, you should record the session in addition to the points you have noted down to ensure you do not miss any points. 

2. Note-Taking Methods and Techniques

Adopting the right note-taking method can improve your effectiveness in note-taking. For you to master how to take notes properly, you must first of all ensure that you are prepared both mentally and physically. A tired person wouldn’t take down excellent notes. As a student who would attend classes or a worker who has a meeting and has been appointed to take down the minutes, ensure that you’re physically and mentally prepared to take down notes before starting the exercise. 

In addition to being prepared, there are also various methods you can adopt to enhance your note-taking skills. These methods include:

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a. The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method was developed in the 1950s by Cornell University and it’s arguably the most common note-taking method adopted. In this method, the page of your note is divided into three sections: 

  • The cue: a narrow section that contains main points, anticipated exam questions, and other important points. 
  • The note section: this is where you expatiate on the points taken down in the cue section. You can organize them using headings, Subheadings, bullet points, Roman numerals, and so on.
  • Summary: the summary section is where you summarize the whole note in a sentence or two. It is usually at the bottom of the page. 
How to take effective notes
Source Cornell University

b. The Outline Method

Furthermore, the outline Method is another effective note-taking method. It’s also easy to adopt and understand and anyone can use this method without being confused. 

The major idea is to outline the key points that are going to be covered in the session, then expatiate on them as the lessons continue. However, you must pay attention and be able to identify the key points being discussed and differentiate them from deviations. However, you can adopt this method if you want your notes to be organized and you want to identify the relationship between the topic and the subtopics.  

c. Mind Mapping Method

Also, another way to take effective notes is by adopting the mind mapping method. This method works for complex courses that have abstract ideas. The basic idea of this note-taking technique is to use a map that serves as a visual aid to discuss the relationship between the topics and the ideas.  For instance, if you were to write about the history of an event, you would first start by explaining the concept, then include the events that led to the concept, and along the line, include other details. The strategy is excellent for visual learners and people who aim to remember the connection between events, topics, and dates.

d. The Sentence Method

Additionally, the sentence method is another simple note-taking technique. It involves the writer taking notes of all that’s being said during the lecture. Consequently, the downside is that the effectiveness of the notes taken afterward is dependent on the speed of the writer during the lecture. The good side is that the writer will have a correct version of what’s being said and it will be easy to study and review afterwards.

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3. Beware of these mistakes

There are certain mistakes you need to avoid to ensure that you take effective notes. It’s not enough to adopt the right note-taking technique and the tools that work for you. You should also consider not making these mistakes: 

a. Not-personalizing your notes

Remember you’re taking notes down to help you enhance your study time. It will be unhelpful if you write down what you’re not likely to understand so, make sure you write in a way you can understand when you go back to read it. 

b. Not organizing your notes

Another mistake to avoid is not organizing your notes. Lumping points down without properly distinguishing them will leave you confused thereby thwarting the reason you even decided to take notes down in the first place. In as much as you want to cover the points listed, ensure that you do so in an organized way.

c. Not reviewing your notes

Again, it’s not enough to just write down notes without going back to them. It defeats the whole purpose of taking down notes. When you take notes in a meeting, program, or lecture, make sure to go back and read them. 

d. Taking too long notes

Finally, your notes should be precise and straight to the point. Your notes shouldn’t be too lengthy and filled with unrelated points to make them easy to read. 

In conclusion, a good note-taking taker is also a good listener. This means that if you want your notes to be in-depth and explanatory, you need to pay proper attention during the lecture. Also, it’s not enough to just take notes, ensure to go back to read and revise what you have taken down

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  • Mercy Awofiranye is a creative writer with over five years of experience. Currently, she specializes in creating helpful content for students in the education space. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and learning new things.