Study Less, Study Smart – Tip 4: Revise your Notes

Welcome to part 4 on this series on Dr. Lobdell’s 7 tips on how to study less, study smart. So far we’ve covered chunking, creating a study space, and active learning.

In this post, we’re going to talk about note taking. Professor Lobdell’s 4th tip in his lecture is to take more effective notes. Actually, he doesn’t give step-by-step instructions on how to take notes in class; he speaks more about what to do after you take notes…

When English is not your native language, listening to someone speak in English and taking notes about what they’re saying in English is really hard! At first, you probably won’t be able to keep up. If you can’t remember how to spell something, do the best you can and you can even write in your native language if absolutely necessary. Try to use common symbols and abbreviations as much as possible. One thing you can do is ask the teacher or professor if it’s OK to record their lecture with your smartphone or other recording device. Some teachers may even allow you to video tape their lectures, but either way, make sure you ask for their permission first! If you have a recording of what they say in class, you can listen again after and review your notes more easily.

Lobdell’s tip about note taking is more what to do with your notes after class. He says that as soon as possible after class, you should rewrite your lecture notes. If you have another class right after, of course you can’t do this, but really, as soon as possible you need to review and revise your notes.

You revise your notes by changing the words or adding more information to them to solidify (or make concrete or solid in your mind) the concepts you learned in class. You can write them out into full sentences, structure them into outline form, and use highlighter pens or underline important facts, words, phrases, or concepts. If you’re not sure about something, you should ask another classmate from that class who you think took good notes. Or you can visit your teacher or professor during their office hours to ask him or her to explain something to you again. Don’t feel shy about this – it’s part of their job to help you!

Remember that when you rewrite your notes after class, a lot of your learning happens when you’re actually doing this activity, not when you’re looking at the notes later just before a test. This is because when you are creating improved lecture notes, you are doing active learning, which was presented in the previous video. Please click on the link below in the description box to review that video.

When you take notes in class, you are engaging in active listening. While you’re listening, you have to decide what is important, and then write it down in another language (English). You have to use a lot of your brain power for all this, and you are learning in the process. Next, when you make your notes better after class by revising them, you’re going to make the information stay longer in your brain. Finally, you can use your excellent notes later on, like before the test, to make sure you not only recognize the information, but can also recall it from memory.

In the next section of this series (part 5), we’re going to take a look at how teaching others can help deepen your learning.

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