How to Take Notes Like a Boss

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Have you ever failed a test because you didn’t have a review sheet? You are not alone. In a perfect world scenario, we all expect to receive an A as long as we review from the class slides. Yet, it doesn’t always go down the way we want. What if I tell you that you can increase the likelihood of acing a final to 100%?

There are a lot of ways to improve your study methods. Some may work better than others, and some may take time to get used to. But the truth is that even if you change the way you study, you can ace any final you want, and I’ll show you how.

One of the tools you have at your disposal to review for finals is your notes. Notes helps us remember graphics and key concepts students can’t look up online. If you are a student who didn’t learn how to take notes in high school, fear not. I will take you through my guide on how to help you step up your note-taking game.

Before You Get to Class

Studying before class is one of the main reasons most students succeed in college. It is important for every student to review the material before you get to class. What I mean by this is, you should be reading or skimming any future material. This helps you get familiar with the material and get ready to ask any questions. Developing this habit allows us to get ahead of the game and to keep everything organized. You should also turn off your phones to avoid distractions. And move up front where you can focus on the professor and can ask questions. You should not forget back-up pencils, notebooks or anything else you may need to take notes.

During the Class

You should always start with a blank new sheet of paper. It’s important to date and number all your notes because it helps build a habit of organization. After class, you should always put a heading at the top of each page. The heading should match the topic in each page so you are able to go back to your notes and find information easier. There have been many times where I’m looking for a specific topic in my notes but I can’t find it because I have lots of notes.

Once the lecture starts, you should be able to think about everything your professor says. Try to write your professor’s lecture in your own words. As you write and listen, think about what information might be useful later. Focus on verbal cues the professor may say to refer the importance of key concepts. Besides, you should also be ready to ask anything that will help you understand the topic better. You may want to look up anything that will strengthen what you’ve learned.

The Cornell Note Taking Method

Now that you’ve learned what to do during the class, you should experiment with a note- taking system. Note-taking systems allows students to organize their thoughts. This system reflects how they listen, think and process information. The best method is the Cornell Method developed in the ‘50s by Walter Pauk.

In this method, you divide your paper in three sections: notes, cues and summary. The first section is pretty much what you think it is. The notes section is where you write your notes and it’s organized in whichever way you want. Most people list notes in an outline because it keeps everything neat and organized. The cue section is where you need to write all the main information, or potential test questions. You can start the cues section during the class or after class. I find it easier to complete after class to help me remember larger ideas. The last part focuses on summarizing all the information to help you study for a future test. And don’t forget about the first rule of college: What you miss WILL be on the exam.

After Class

You should review your notes right after class ends. You can correct any concepts that you may have gotten wrong when you were in a hurry. In fact, reviewing helps you identify all the key concepts while your mind is still fresh.

Finally, we could talk about note-taking and more ways to study. But the most important thing is that note-taking is a skill. A skill that will help you survive the college experience. People’s brains work a little different, and note-taking might not work for a tech-savvy person. On the other hand, I encourage you to try and experiment with the best method that works for you.

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