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Note Taking: Essential Part of Learning as a student

As you probably know, the notes you take at school can very helpful when you want to learn for an exam. While everybody takes notes on a regular basis, only some students can understand the complexity of the process. So-called “note-taking” skills are essential, but cannot be acquired straight away. Note taking is usually seen as the process that transcribes information using a few condensing strategies, such as substitution symbols and shortened words, which basically create an external memory that will help you a lot in the future.

Note-taking and its functions

People who take notes are used to fulfilling two different functions: that of recording information, and that of aiding reflection. The process implied by note taking doesn’t consist only in the physical act of writing something down, since it also implies building up a solid external memory that can be used later. Most students take notes in an attempt to extract information from books, lectures, or any other study material.  One of the most famous storage methods implies copying and regurgitating, but this strategy isn’t recommended to university students, because the source information with which they have to deal is often useless once reformulated.

The main goal of the note taking process is that of storing transmitted information, which is actually the reason why most people use this strategy. It may sound unbelievable, but the note taking process guarantees that you’re not wasting your time thinking of knotty issues. For examples, notes can help you solve complicated mathematical problems; they allow you to create a draft where you can code all the needed information.

How notes should be taken

Most teachers speak slowly so that students can have enough time to write down everything they hear. In case you’re wondering how you can discover the right moment to start taking notes, you should know that there are several indicators to which most people pay attention. For example, when teachers write on the board or simply dictate, students know that they should write down. Most students start taking notes whenever they hear a catch phrase or a definition, but also when they hear expressions similar to “firstly” and “secondly”.

However, recent studies have shown that students prefer to write down the exact words used by their teachers, because it’s simpler and it guarantees that they won’t make any mistakes. As you can imagine, that’s the linear way of taking notes, which is considered to be one of the most used classic methods.

How can note taking facilitate understanding and learning?

Students usually take notes because they want to record essential information that will be needed in the future; they often overlook that the note-taking process can improve memorization, thus helping students to create an “internal storage”. Researchers from all over the world agree that highlighting notes is better than simply reading them, while re-writing notes is better than highlighting them.

Believe it or not, the way you take your notes is extremely important. The most used structure is the linear one, which unfortunately is the most ineffective one. The best way of recording information is to make a matrix structure, even though outline structures can help as well. Whenever you take notes, your brain concentrates more than you can imagine, since it needs to access, sort, and code the information. Notes allow you to store essential pieces of information so that you can use them in the future, without overcharging your memory.

According to experts, you need to acquire at least three different skills if you want to take complex notes: the ability to comprehend through note taking, as well as to produce notes and manage the whole activity. These skills are essential if you want to become an expert in note-taking, the only problem being the fact that they cannot be acquired instantly. Exercise as often as you get the chance, and don’t be afraid to create your own way of taking notes. You can start by using the linear structure, and develop your own technique in time. No one is born with these skills, and this should definitely encourage you to never give up. The good news is that you’ll have to go through the note taking process on a regular basis, which means that you’ll have plenty of time to develop your skills.

Author Bio: Jason Phillips is an education writer and blogger. He loves talking and blogging about latest education tips and techniques. Moreover he writes for a site which provides revision notes and chapter summaries in English Literature.


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