As a student training for a healthcare career, you’re probably sitting through lengthy lectures, and taking notes is essential to your success. Taking notes is also important for reading assignments you might receive from your instructors. Without notes, you may struggle to retain the information. According to a study from the University of Texas-Austin, without reviewing notes, a person may forget 47 percent of what they learned in the first 20 minutes after taking in a burst of information, like a lecture. And by the next day, 62 percent of that information is lost.1 Because of this, it's important that you learn how to take good notes in school for better success as a student. Here are some helpful tips to guide you along the note taking process and improve your abilities as a student.
Keep it simple.
The key to taking solid notes is customizing your organizational skills. The more coordinated your notes are, the better chance you'll have at being able to memorize the information.2 One of the best strategies is keeping your notes short but implementing keywords to trigger your memory when you review them before a test. Using short sentences may help you jot down points of interest faster, giving you more time to work with the information you're being given. Also, rather than write down everything the professor or text says, you should put notes into your own words. It could make points of interest easier to remember when you look them over in your writing.
Develop a system.
You could try using a series of symbols to designate certain information as especially important, such as an asterisk. You might put question marks next to ideas or points that you want dedicate more research to or ask your instructor about. One of the best ways to take better notes is coming up with your own style of writing down and labeling information. Writer Tim Ferriss encourages students to use an indexing system to facilitate finding notes that are buried beneath pages of handwritten text.3 You could number pages and create a table of contents for yourself, or use colored tabs to mark specific sections of your notebook for review. Try out this method and see how well it works for you.
As a student, it's imperative that you properly prepare for each class. Read the assigned materials leading up to that particular lecture and review your previous class notes. This might refresh you on the information that's already been covered and how it applies to the new concepts you'd be learning that particular day. This preparation might better prepare you for future lectures and discussions too. Bring highlighters to class as well. Whenever the instructor mentions something “extremely important,” there's a good chance it's going to be put onto an exam. When he or she does, you should be ready to start highlighting all of the significant concepts that are being discussed. These highlighted sections will make a last-minute review before an exam quick and easy.
A new page for every class.
You may think it's better to consolidate your notes on continuous pages with no breaks between days. However, this might make it more difficult to find information after a few weeks. By starting a new page each class, you break up the dates of classes in your notebook.4 When you go back to look things over, it'll be easier to find if you're notes are divided up in this manner.
Review your notes.
Use these tips and make sure to review your notes thoroughly as you study for your exams. You might be surprised how helpful it is to skim over your notes one last time right before your test. Good luck!