As a tutor, one of the most common problems I see in students are poor note taking skills. During a lecture in class, many students try to capture everything a teacher or professor is saying. In fact, the average professor lectures at about 180 words per minute and even the fastest typist would be able to keep up with this pace. At that, you are more focused on typing, than actually listening to a lecture and retain information.
Try these three tips when taking notes during your next class:
- Remove the fluff - Filler words like "the, a, an, this, etc" have no need in notes. Your notes need not be grammatically correct or contain full sentences. Instead aim for complete ideas. In the past, I have reduced notes from 2-3 pages down to 2-3 sentences sometimes less.
- Pay attention to time - A great note taking technique is to keep time in the margins. This will often lead to the areas that will be covered in exams. For instance, did your finance professor spend only 15 minutes speaking about time value of money and over an hour talking about evaluation methods? This may be a good indication on what the professor believes is important. Most teachers will spend the most time talking in areas they believe to be most relevant and important... myself included!
- Pre-read material - I always recommend my students read material prior to coming to class. This will keep you on pace with the lecture and actually give you additional insight to items the professor is teaching. Understand, every word of the chapter does not need to be read, but if you just glance at headings and subheadings, read the "overview" found in the back of the chapter, and take a peek at the vocabulary or bold words, then you will be ahead of 99% of your class.
These tips will drastically reduce the size of your notes and you will notice you retain more information when you feel like you have to learn less. So many students try to memorize their notes versus understanding the material. As a former student and college professor, understanding material is much easier and less energy tapping than memorizing information!