It’s a new school year, and once again we will all crack open our notebooks and start feverishly taking notes for the next 8 months. As I discovered last year, the quality and consistency of my notes directly affected my score in that class. If I spent 10 hours studying for each course exam, I would not only finish faster with the courses in which I had kept good notes, but I would come away with a deeper understanding, and do better on the exam.
Define your note-taking system at the start of the year. Make sure you know right from the get-go how you are organizing your notes. Spend some time before-hand thinking about how to organize your notes. Will you keep a single big binder? One for each course? Or maybe one for each day?
Choose quality materials for your system. Don’t just walk into class with a Bic pen and a $0.69 duotang. Invest a few bucks in 3-4 good writing utensils, a binder or notebook system that you like, and some quality writing paper. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Think before you write. There is no use in just copying down what the teacher says each day. Doing this will take up too much room, make your hand hurt from so much writing, and make studying for tests very hard. Instead, listen, and write down key concepts, tricks, or things to remember. You will have less notes, and you will actually learn something, which makes studying much easier.
Do a daily review of your notes. You won’t always have time to scribble down everyone you would like to during class. By sitting down for 15 minutes at the end of each day, when your knowledge is still fresh, you can add more detail or things you may have missed to your notes.
Do a weekly review as well. Things that you learn one day will often relate heavily to things that you learn the next day, or the day after that. Sitting down for 30-50 minutes on the weekend will allow you to make sense of the unit as a whole. At this point, consider condensing your notes into smaller study notes. Remember, you aren’t wasting ANY of your weekend, as doing weekly reviews will dramatically decrease study time, and increase results.
Condense after each unit or test. After you are finished with a unit, you should spend an hour or so making study notes from the entire unit. It is better to do this now while the knowledge is still fresh than half a year later when exams roll around.
As you can see, the primary objective is to review as much as possible. Review before you write, after the day is over, every weekend, and after each major unit. This may sound like a lot of work, but it is simply distributing the work over your entire year, instead of having a huge info crunch before big tests and final exams.