In addition to paying attention in class, lecture notes can be your most powerful study resource. Yet many students don’t bother with it, thinking they can get necessary information from their textbook, PowerPoint presentation, or the student in the next row.
This is not the case. Taking notes is not only about having a ‘set of notes' to study from. Here are 3 important reasons why YOU should be taking your own lecture notes:
1. Know What to Study
Obvious enough, right? Most people don’t realize the value of notes. Taking notes during the lecture lets you know exactly what you’ve covered in class, which topics to skip, and where you left off. Don’t be the student who skips the review of Chapter ‘X’ because you didn’t take notes and forgot it was on the exam.
2. Teacher Emphasis
Every teacher has a unique approach to their topic and will focus more heavily on one aspect or another. The topics of heavy focus tend to be the topics winding up on exams. Sometimes the very examples the teacher used to emphasize a topic will show up as an exam question. Taking notes lets you capture those key focal points you may miss by just studying the lecture slides or reading the textbook.
Speaking of lecture slides, it’s great if your professor provides them ahead of time. Print those out, preferably with lines to each slide’s side, and take notes directly on the slides. This will not only give you the information you need to study, but will help with mental recall of the lecture by allowing you to connect the notes with what you heard in class.
3. Minimize Personal Distractions
When you have nothing to do, especially in boring lectures, your mind looks for alternate forms of entertainment. Suddenly the cloud shapes are fascinating, and the little bug crawling up your neighbor’s desk (please don’t shriek) is the most exciting occurrence since your graduation. Actively taking notes keeps your mind present. By giving yourself something ‘to do,’ your attention is devoted to listening and writing, and you are less likely to let your mind wander.
I will end with a quick story. A recent organic chemistry student absolutely despised going to lecture. On my advice, she still attended class, and began every tutoring session with: “You should be very proud; I wrote down everything the professor said and drew, although I didn't understand a word of it.”
While I am quite familiar with the standard organic chemistry curriculum, seeing examples and problem sets from the course allowed me to teach the exact information this student needed for class. We dissected her notes and worked through the specific problems. When exam time rolled around, the problems weren’t as terrible for her as they were for her classmates. Without realizing it, she had captured the professor’s emphasis points and prepared for exams accordingly. And yes, she did wind up with an excellent orgo grade.
Do you take notes in class? Why or why not?
Drop me a note in the comments below.