How to Take Effective Notes Quickly

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Notes taken during a class must emphasize the main points and supporting information of the lecture. The college professor is not going to stop or slow down so the student can write down everything spoken during a lecture. To take effective notes quickly, use simple strategies before, during and after the lecture.

Before the Lecture

  • Read the information the lecture will cover to help you determine the main ideas and secondary supporting points. This information will form the outline for taking notes. According to Loughborough University, "If you are focused in on the information you are looking for, you are halfway to producing focused notes."

  • Become familiar with the vocabulary to avoid becoming confused during the lecture. Look up definitions of words that are unfamiliar.

  • Know what you are not clear about to ensure that additional notes are taken during that part of the lecture.

During the Lecture

  • Use a clean sheet of looseleaf paper and write on one side. Write the date, name of class and the page number on every sheet for the lecture. This makes reading the notes easier and easier to organize them later.

  • Use a pen that fits comfortably in your hand for writing notes quickly and for a long period of time.

  • Develop note taking abbreviations for words relevant to the class such as s/m (sales and marketing), hv (high voltage) or cmm (communications).

  • Use text messaging spelling that is familiar to write and read quick and simple symbols including '&', '#', '?'and '!'.

  • Listen for keywords that denote a new idea such "next", "that brings me to" or "the important ideas to remember is". The lecturer may also say "There are X number of..."

  • Record the lecture while taking notes. This is a good way review slowly after the lecture.

After the Lecture

  • Review the notes frequently to retain the information. This transfers the information from short- to long- term memory. According to a current study "the more often you read or hear something, the easier it is to remember. With only one exposure to information (during lecture), most information is lost within the first 24 hours. Reviewing notes within one to two days reduces the information forgotten and thus have to relearn prior to a test."

  • Read through the notes while the lecture is still fresh. Make sure what is written makes sense.

  • Listen to the recorded lecture. Listen to the entire lecture or fast forward to fill in any ideas or supporting information which was missed.

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