(Note: I will be using Economics notes as an example here,and so some points may not be relevant to taking down notes for other subjects).
Taking down lecture notes can be stressful. It’s multitasking- you have to listen to what the teacher is saying and write it down as well. And if the teacher doesn’t use the board or a projector at all, it’s even more difficult.
Some of you may not write lecture notes at all and instead opt to go back home and copy down the main points from the textbook. And many of you may be too lazy to even take down any notes. What’s the point if whatever the teacher is saying is there in the textbook?
Well, turns out lecture notes can be pretty useful, especially for subjects like Economics where there are lots of complicated points to learn and you need to condense them into your own words in order to grasp the point properly. And during revision for the exams, these notes are all you need to learn from; ditch those textbooks.
So here’s how you can master the art of writing notes in class.
- Get a notebook:
Buy a brand new book (preferably large) just for the purpose of writing notes. Using an old used book is demotivating and won’t make you as excited as filling up a brand new one. If you’re into aesthetics, customize the book with designs and whatnot. For what it’s worth, you end up enjoying learning!
- Get pens:
I read somewhere that using blue ink to write stuff rather than black ink will help you remember and recall the things you wrote. Not sure if it’s true, but no harm in trying it. I would recommend using an unusual ink colour; Green, Blue, Pink etc. You can use different colours for different chapters but depends on what works for you. (I personally, find a monotonous colour scheme satisfying).
- Make your own abbreviations and symbols:
While writing my economics notes I made up a lot of text shortcuts to speed up my writing and save space. In Economics, for example, the are lots of instances where you have to use the word ‘increase in’ and ‘decrease in’. I would just use the up and down arrows to indicate it. A ‘change in’ would be depicted by the Greek symbol ‘delta’ (a little triangle). Parameters and variables will be just their abbreviations. Examples:
- ‘the percentage change in the increase of prices’ will be: % 🔺 in ↑ P.
- ‘an appreciation leads to cheaper import prices and expensive export prices given that elasticities of imports and exports are greater than one:
Appr.→ ↓ I.P. ↑ E.P. when PED>1.
See? How easy! Of course, you have to get used to it. Some students like writing such important points in full sentence, and if you are one of them, you can convert these short points into longer sentences once you get home back from school. But if you’re lazy like me, the above format is a great one to use.
- Make the titles and subheadings big:
It’s important that you understand what topic you’re writing/revising. If you want, add your own little flourish and style them!
- Write down points that are important or confusing to you:
If you’re a slow writer, just note down the important points, particular phrases and words that are important and that you may forget easily. Don’t go about writing everything the teacher says. That will just mean you’re not listening to the teacher and you’re not giving yourself time to grasp the concept. (Me on the other hand, wrote down pretty much everything; and if it was out of syllabus, I would scribble it in the margins cause I’m a nerd like that). You can even use pencils to mark and add comments.
- Draw diagrams:
If the teacher is using tables and diagrams to explain a difficult concept, quickly copy down those tables and diagrams too. They don’t have to be large or have perfect lines drawn with a ruler. They’re just for reference. When you revise these notes, it will help you understand and recall the the concept much more easily. The important diagrams that are part of the syllabus, like supply and demand curves, you can note down, preferably in pencil.
- Format your notes:
Use bulleting techniques and arrows to organise your notes. Highlighting, capitalizing or underlining important words and phrases can also help pick out key words during revision. They make the notes much more interactive and easier to read from.
- Keep it neat:
Neat notes are very satisfying to look at and read from. Or if you find pleasure in crumpled pages and barely-legible handwriting, like me, go ahead and scribble.
(Error 404: Image not found. I was NOT a neat writer!)
- Refer to classmates’ notes:
When you can’t keep up with the teacher while taking notes, leave some gap in your notebook and ask the teacher or a friend for help after class. Don’t stress because you didn’t note down something. You’re not the only one in class! Others might have picked up on things you didn’t or somebody might have come up with a way of simplifying a complex concept.
- Improve your writing speed:
This will be useful not only for lecture notes, but for the exams as well where you have to write a lot in a short span of time. I suggest taking a random paragraph from any book available and using timers and stopwatches on your devices to time your writing. Improve your speed every time you repeat it.
There you go! I personally haven’t stuck with all the points above, but still managed to make notes that were helpful at the time of revision. I have to keep stressing that the points above may not work for everyone. It largely depends on your studying style, speed of grasping concepts, speed of writing, ability to multitask and so on. Find what suits you best and stick to it.