Smart Study Tips: Note Taking

smart study tipsStudy smart tips begins with the idea that it is important to figure out how to take notes, The further on you go in your educational path, the more important it is to take good notes. Whether teachers are lecturing, there is a class discussion, or you are working in small groups to collaborate, note taking is a must. This raises an issue among educators. Exactly how should you take notes? Should you outline? Should you draw pictures, charts, or diagrams? What about making a list? Perhaps you are that person who combines a couple of ways to take notes into one. 

The truth about note taking is that there is no correct way to go about this robust way to study smart. Everything depends on your identified learning style. To ask a visual learner to outline is like asking a sprinter to walk his race. The visual learner's mind simply doesn't work the same way that a logical mind works. Let me share an example. I am a linguistic learner with a strong touch of visual learning along with a smaller dose of the logical. I could no more outline notes than I could jump over a three-story building. It simply wouldn't work. Rather, when I take notes I tend to list ideas, look for connections where I then draw connecting lines, and, when needed, I make use of pictures, diagrams, or doodles. 

This article is not about how you take notes, rather it is about a note taking format that makes sense no matter what your learning style might be. The format is called Cornell Notes. So let's get into that.

Smart Study Tips: Cornell Notes

Take a look at the image to the left. It is the format of a Cornell Notes page. The page is divided into four parts. At the top is a header. It contains demographic data about the date and class. Below and to the right is the section for actually taking notes. It is the largest section on the page. Directly to the left of the notes section is a narrow bar for adding cues, connections, or other information relevant to the notes taken. Finally, the footer is for writing a summary of the notes on that page: the main idea(s) contained on that page. For your convenience, Click Here and you'll find a readymade Cornell Notes form Free from Effective Study Tips.

With Cornell Notes you are not limited as to how you take notes. Figure out the way that makes the most sense to you and go. Notes are a perfect way to jog your memory but it is inefficient to read those notes over and over again when you are studying. More on that later. For now, the first step after class is to sit down and in the left column jot down connections and memory cues. Careful not to overwhelm yourself here. Five to seven short phrases or words will suffice. Try to place them across from the main points of your notes if possible. This will help later. The final thing to do is to write a brief summary of what's on the page. Like notes, this summary has no particular form, merely a way that makes sense to you. 

A brief aside. If you aren't sure of a format for taking notes, try a few out. See which one makes the most sense and then stick with it. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't taking notes the correct way. The fact is that you are.

Smart Study Tips: Reviewing Notes

This is where the rubber meets the road. It is what makes this way of taking notes so smart. Think about it, what good are notes that you take without a plan for efficient review of those notes? I'd say that without a plan for review you may as not waste your time taking notes at all. This is the robust power of Cornell Notes. Your review process is anywhere from a one to three step process. Usually, at the beginning the process is a three step one but as time goes by the steps reduce until there remains but one. Let, take a look at the three step process:

  1. Step 1: Read the summary, the cues, and the notes section. While you are doing this, track how much you understand at each step of the process.
  2. Step 2: Read the summary and the cues. If you can honestly say you understand everything in your notes without having to review the notes section then stop. If not, review what you don't understand or can't clearly recall in the notes section.
  3. Step 3: Read the summary. If you can honestly say you have a clear understanding of what is on that page stop. 

Step 1 includes steps 2 and 3 as a part of your review. Sooner than later, a full review of any page will be unnecessary. In step 2 you are focusing on the cues or concepts that aren't quite there yet. So step 2 has a bit of step 1 included in it. But, I think you'll find that your study time is now significantly reduced. Talk about smart study tips! Step 3 involves just reading the summary and stopping if you are certain that you get everything on that page. Now your study time is even shorter. 

Let me say a brief word about the word honestly as I am using it here. To be honest with oneself is crucial to the success of smart note taking. Here you are measuring understanding against doubt. If you have the slightest doubt that you aren't clear about one or more points then you must act as if you don't have a grasp of the material. This is a self-imposed rigor that works if you work it. Enough said.

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