Áine Kenny writes about the best way to take notes during lectures.
College is, as you know, completely different to secondary school, so therefore taking notes is different too. It can be daunting to sit in a lecture hall with three hundred people listening to a lecturer say a lot of things you might not necessarily understand -  not to mention distracting. Effective note-taking is a skill worth learning if you want to succeed in college. If your notes are neatly organized, it will be a lot easier to study for exams. Here are my top five tips on effective note-taking for students. 

1. Be organised.

It is all fine and well writing down the information you need, but if you are scrawling your Jane Eyre notes on the back of a napkin from Costa then it might be time to buy a notebook. Get a hardback copy for each subject and divide it into sections in accordance with your modules. There are also Pukka pads which have divisions and pockets for loose notes and handouts which are very useful. Buy a pencil case and a few pens also.

2.    Find out what note-taking style suits you.

Most people are either visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. If you are a visual person, write out your notes in spider diagrams or mind maps, using lots of colourful ink. This will help you to visualize the information during the exam. If you are an auditory learner, write out your notes and record yourself saying them, then listen back to them. This is particularly useful if you are studying languages. Kinesthetic learners learn by doing, so try walking around while studying and solving practical problems. Hopefully, all of this will help you remember the material you need to know.  To find out what type of learner you are, you can take this quiz.

3.    Attend your lectures.

Easier said than done - especially if you have a 9am and it is lashing rain outside, but showing up to your lectures is the first hurdle you should be jumping over when it comes to college. You can borrow notes from other people, but this is not nearly as effective as listening to a lecturer and making your own. The PowerPoint slides that lecturers put up on Blackboard afterward usually only contain sparse bullet points and aren’t even worth re-writing. So, set your alarm and grab your rain coat! 

4.    Write down what the lecturer says.

Don’t just take down the words on the projector and embellish the bullet points with a little flower for some artistic flair. Pay close attention to what the lecturer actually says- sometimes a little comment can be integral to your understanding of the exam questions. Some very helpful lecturers will flag the material that is examinable so put a big red “EXAM QUESTION” beside these notes, this will save you time when you’re sifting through piles of paper in December and May. 


5.    Written notes versus typed notes.

Some studies show that students who physically write down notes retain the information better. However, if you have a learning difficulty or a physical ailment which prevents you from writing, don’t allow lecturers or other students to make you feel bad for tapping away at your keyboard. Colour-code you work and organise it into different folders for ease of access. I would also recommend printing out your notes. Use the ctrl f function to find key words and phrases in your notes. Also, if you are going to be typing your exams, you should be typing your notes, as this will make you a faster typist