Notable Notes

The start of a new semester is upon us, and I am sure many have made the new year's resolutions about studying harder and doing better this semester. As good as our intentions , though, let's be realistic — studying harder is not usually the problem. It is more of a question of what you study with – class notes. (Don't get me started on the textbook…) A successful semester starts at the beginning with good note taking. I thought it was time to share a little about note taking, then, before it is too late.

Good note taking starts before you ever sit down in your first class. It starts with how you organize your notebooks for your different classes. You don't have to be uptight in your approach to organizing, but you should have a system. Sit down beforehand and label your notebooks (one for each subject) and acquire the appropriate types of paper for the particular subject (i.e., have a supply of graph paper for subjects requiring graphing – pre-calculus, trigonometry, economics, etc.) Make sure you have the appropriate tools for your classes (pencil, ruler, calculator, and others) associated with each notebook. If you can keep them together then you will never be "that guy" always borrowing a pencil or paper in class.

We all have different approaches to note taking due to our differences in how we learn information, but there are some standards that are found throughout all approaches:

  1. Date your notes at the top of the page so you can reference back. This will allow you to keep your notes in a chronological timeline and keep you from confusing the order of some information.
  2. Give all your notes a heading related to the topic of discussion for the day. This will allow you to quickly find specific topics while studying, saving you from wasting time.
  3. Be consistent in how you take notes. Use the same abbreviations throughout and highlighting techniques like underlining vocabulary or definitions. If you are taking math notes make sure you copy down the steps in order. Be consistent.
  4. Write down all date changes for assignments in a separate class scheduler or calendar.
  5. Always re-type your notes at the end of the day before you take time off for your social life. Re-typing your notes helps to re-inforce the ideas in your brain, as well as keeping them legible for later in the semester. (It always amazed me how I couldn't read my own handwriting or follow my own thoughts just two weeks later.) This will also cut down on the amount of time you will need to review your notes later when preparing for a test.

Make a habit of reviewing your notes before class each week and not waiting until the night before the test. It will allow you to participate more in class, and provide for a better understanding of the course work. I learned later in my college life that if I took good notes and followed the above suggestions that I really didn't need to study as much or as hard.

Power to the notes,
Professor Cram