5 Different Note-Taking Techniques That'll Help You Score Great Grades

Have you ever looked at your notes after class and thought to yourself, "I don't know what any of this means?"

You're not alone. It isn't easy to take good notes, and that's usually for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that you don't always know what information to include. As a result, you either have way too much information or miss critical pieces of study material. The second reason is that you're trying to take notes in a way that is not conducive to your learning process. You were probably taught one way to take notes when you were younger and stuck with it, but it may not mesh with your learning style. For example, you should not be taking sentence notes if you are a visual learner.

Thankfully, taking good notes is a skill you can practice and achieve. You need to find a system that focuses not only on the pivotal study material but also on your unique learning process. Here are five different techniques for taking notes that will guarantee you good grades.

1. Outline Notes

Outlining is one of the most common and straightforward notetaking techniques. It's like outlining an essay! The basic template is a header for each topic with important notes jotted under each heading in list form. It allows you to categorize information and quickly see the essential points. Under the umbrella of outlining is a specific method called the Cornell Method. This technique is beneficial for people who need help organizing and retaining information. First, you create a column on the left side of the page for cues like main ideas, questions and prompts. The right side of the page is for notes in class, and then you save the bottom third of your page to write a summary after class.

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2. Recorded Notes

It can be challenging to take notes in class while paying attention to your teacher or professor. Recorded notes are helpful for individuals who learn best from audio instructions or have hearing impairments. You record the lecture, and then you can listen after class to transcribe notes. A benefit of this technique is that you'll never miss information as you can listen to the lecture as many times as necessary. Every instructor is different, and some do not allow recording in class, so always check with them before you record. In the case of a disability case, you should be able to get special accommodations to record any lecture. Speak to a counselor at your school that can help you set that up.

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3. Visual Notes

Of course, some people are the opposite of audio learners and thrive with visual learning. Notetaking can be specifically challenging for visual learners because listening and writing do not help them process information. Visual notetaking can look different and is customizable to each person. You may draw diagrams, sketches charts or Venn diagrams. A popular method of visual notetaking is mind mapping. Mind mapping starts with the main subject circled in the middle of your page. Next, you draw lines branching out to each subtopic and continue to group information while linking it to the original point. Whatever method works for you, visual notetaking is not less helpful than normal notetaking! You just have to make sure you include important information.

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4. Group Notes

Some people find it very difficult to take and study notes themselves. These people thrive when learning with friends or in study groups because collaborating aids them in understanding the material better. You can take notes separately in class and compare later to review any concepts you didn't quite understand. When taking notes from books, everyone in your study group can cover different sections and then explain them to each other when you're finished. It's important to remember that this is good for notetaking but not good for individual projects or essays. Make sure this is just a tool for studying to avoid any potential problems.

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5. Sentence Notes

Sentence notetaking is taking the information you hear and rewriting it in your thoughts. Rewriting the information helps you understand the material rather than just copy it down. This style of notetaking can be complex if you're in a fast-paced lecture. It might work best to use bullet notes and rewrite them into sentences after class. Another potential problem with this notetaking is that sometimes it feels like you have to record every sentence. If you struggle to identify important information, try highlighting or adding stars next to the material that you end up using while studying. As you practice more, you'll pick up important information faster and won't need to take this extra step.

Shutterstock: young woman taking notes at a table with an open laptop and iPhone

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