Do you ever finish reading material for class and realize you don’t remember what you’ve read?
Do you sometimes have a hard time figuring out what to write in your notes during class lectures?
When you sit down to study your notes, are you sometimes unable to figure out why you wrote down what you did?
Do you sometimes study a lot but still not remember the material or do well on tests?
Note-taking is a skill that can be developed. Study strategies also are learned and can improve over time. Many different methods for both exist, and you need to figure out what works for you. Follow all these tips for reading, listening, and note-taking, and over time you will study less, enjoy classes more, and earn better grades!
Active Listening and Taking Good Notes
When you read a textbook, an academic article, or any other assigned material, it’s important to read it actively—don’t read it the way you would a story; approach it like a puzzle. You need to write while you read, either in the text itself (if you are keeping it) or in a notebook. Follow these steps:
To take good notes, you have to listen, which is harder than it sounds. Often students don’t realize that listening is a skill that must be practiced and developed. Learning the skill of active listening is crucial – learning to listen in this way will make class less boring and will decrease the time you have to study.
What is “active listening”? Like active reading, it means being awake and actually interacting with what is going on. When your professors are talking, you need to think about what they are saying. Ask yourself questions about what they are saying, write down key words and main points, and look for ways that their comments connect with what you have already read or heard.
A few tips to improve your listening:
Organizing Your Notes
Different note-taking methods exist. Google it for examples! In general, though, most recommend hand-writing notes, not using a computer, and dividing your paper into two columns – on the right-hand side (about 2/3 of the page), take your notes For a good example, see Kruger, Susan. 2013. SOAR Study Skills. Grand Blanc, MI: Grand Lighthouse Publishing.)
On the left-hand side, write questions, summary points, comments the teacher makes (e.g., “important point”), and questions you have. If you miss something, leave a blank space and circle it to go back.
Important Note: When class is over, read through your notes and fill in any blanks you can. Add in additional things you remember while you remember it, including any reference to the reading. If you have questions, write those out and go talk with your professor.
|Studying begins with active reading, active listening, and good note-taking and review. If you engage in all of the above, your actual “study time” will decrease substantially.|
Studying should be a time to review, not to learn new material. You should have:
Spend time reviewing them and making yet another set of notes about themes and main points, using a study guide if one was given. When in doubt, ask questions and see your professor. Bring all your notes and materials with you, so that he/she can see what you have been doing and help you improve as the term goes on.