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Many students have a tendency to believe that taking notes is just writing what an instructor is saying or copying what’s on the board. However, taking quality notes involves just a bit more work and focus, but a small amount of additional effort can make a huge difference in how study sessions go and may help improve your grades.

Getting into the habit of good note taking can make it easier for important facts and concepts to stick in your brain. Further, when you need to study for midterms or final exams, good notes can reduce the stress and time it takes to properly prepare for an important test. Here are some methods and tricks to improve your note taking.

PAY ATTENTION

Unless you really enjoy a subject, chances are, you fall prey to boredom and spacing out when in class. If you’re not actually paying attention to what’s being said, your note taking is going to suffer. You’ll likely miss important points and may just jot down random phrases or keywords that will mean little to nothing to you later.

Therefore, you need to make sure that you’re paying attention in class and that you’re taking in and understanding what is being said. This will allow you to not only take better notes; it will help ensure that you ask questions if you don’t comprehend a particular topic.

BRING THE RIGHT TOOLS

Whether you take notes by hand or use a computer, it’s important that you come prepared. If you take notes by hand, you’ll want a notebook or a binder and different colored pens and/or highlighters. A notebook or binder will help you keep your notes in the same place. If you take notes on loose-leaf paper and don’t have anything to keep your papers together, it increases the risk you’ll lose them.

Multiple colored writing utensils can help you break up topics as well as allow you to color code your notes. Using a different color of pen or highlighting words can help you bring attention to important topics or vocabulary words. It may also be a good idea to create your own shorthand instead of trying to make up abbreviations on the fly. What makes sense in class may turn into Sanskrit when you’re reviewing what you’ve written.

If you’re taking notes on a computer, you may want to consider a good note taking program. While a standard word processing program may do the job, it’s easier if you’ve got a program that will let you sort notes into topics, highlight keywords and concepts and break up your notes into digestible segments with little effort. You should also be sure that your computer is charged and/or that you have a power cord handy.

STAY ORGANIZED

Taking great notes does you little good if you lose them or are spending enormous amounts of time trying to find what you’ve got on a particular topic. Hand note takers can benefit from binders or notebooks with pockets in them to help keep track of written notes as well as any handouts. At the top of each page of notes, you should include the date, chapter and topics covered. It may also be a good idea to skip lines when taking notes so that you can add details later.

If you keep your notes on a computer, make sure that you separate each class into its own folder and that each document is labeled so that you know when the notes were taken.

REVIEW YOUR NOTES AFTER CLASS

Some people find that rewriting their notes after class or after school helps them cement what they’ve learned and ensure that their notes are clear. You may find it beneficial to transfer your notes to a computer if you normally take notes by hand. Computer users may also want to review everything and make sure what they’ve written is clear and makes sense. Reviewing your notes after a class makes it easier to correct errors or clarify things that could be confusing in a few weeks.

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