The Most Effective Note-Taking Methods for Success

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The Most Effective Note-Taking Methods for Success


Whether for a high school Calculus class or introductory college psychology class, note-taking is one of the most paramount skills that goal-oriented students can acquire. Students, especially ones enrolled in college, need an effective note-taking method to help them recall and retain key points in classroom discussions. Failing to decide on a general note-taking method may result in an insufficient understanding of advanced subject matter.

The whole purpose of recording notes is to summarize the information from classroom lectures and translate it into your own words. This process helps encourage and reinforce your understanding of complex topics. According to education experts, there are a plethora of benefits included in taking descriptive notes:

  • Improves focus and attention to detail
  • Promotes active learning
  • Boosts comprehension and retention
  • Hones in on organization and prioritizing skills
  • Increases creativity in writing skills

Before you start jotting information down in your next college lecture, there are several note-taking methods that you must consider. Here are some helpful note-taking methods that we’ve rounded up.

Method #1: The Outline Method

The outline method is one of the more effective methods for college students. Further, the Outline method allows you to structure notes in an organized style, allowing you to digest and understand difficult information. Moreover, this note-taking method emphasizes the relationships between content, while reducing the time needed for editing.

As its name suggests, the Outline method requires you to style your notes in the form of an outline to break up different topics and subtopics. For broader topics, you start on the far left and when writing down subtopics, you indent further down towards the right. The Outline technique works best for lectures following a clear teaching structure that doesn’t focus on formulas or graphs.

While this method is practical for most subjects like Sociology or American Literature, it is not suitable for subjects such as mathematics or chemistry, which require more of the visual aspects of formatting.

Method #2: The Mapping Method

This next note-taking strategy, The Mapping method, is appropriate for intense lectures in higher-level courses. The mind mapping method requires students to use their critical thinking skills by creating a logical map that organizes facts, ideas, and information. Students write out each fact on paper and use arrows to connect certain facts.

Many students master content better when using the mapping method because it creates a visual picture in the mind. You can start with the main point at the top of the page and continue to divide your subtopics down the page. Be sure to place all your notes in a specific order; otherwise, you might find yourself confused when you review your notes for a big exam.

Method #3: The Charting Method

This final note-taking method is the perfect solution for certain subjects, such as science and mathematics, which synthesize relationships between facts and ideas. You may notice your notes appear in the same structure you may find on an excel spreadsheet. You should fill the columns with topics, which you can then make comparisons with the information you insert into rows.

This technique may not be the most practical method for documenting notes because it can become time-consuming and distract students from critical information in lectures. It cannot be used for information that is not easily organized. However, when it is used, reviewing these notes can be easily read and comprehended.

Choosing Your Preferred Note-taking Style 

There are many note-taking models out there to suit your style and needs. By continuing to build on your writing skills, you can have a long-lasting impact on your future studies and receive great results. More importantly, note-taking is an excellent way of training your brain to identify important information. Pick a method, start taking notes, and maximize your productivity and efficiency of your texts!

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