College students often believe that the goal of taking notes is to record what was said in class, but the actual goal is to capture what you know about that content. But how do you actually go about doing this? In this article, different methods and study skills are discussed, with tips on how they can help in the future.

The Difference Between Good and Bad Notes

There are a few key things that separate good notes from bad notes. Good notes are usually well-organized and easy to read. They also contain all of the important information from lectures and readings. On the other hand, bad notes are often messy and difficult to understand. They may also be missing key information.

Here are some key suggestions for better note-taking.

Bring a Pen and Notebook to the Lecture

First, always bring a notebook and pen to class with you. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people forget to do this. Having a dedicated notebook for each class will help you keep your thoughts organized and make it easier to review your notes later on. If the class is fast-paced it will not hurt to record the lecture using an audio app on your cell phone. You can listen to the audio later when you have time. This is not any reason however to be disengaged in the class. Listen carefully and ask for clarification so that the audio will make sense when you listen to it.

Ask Questions

It’s very important to stay engaged in class as I alluded to earlier. One way to do this is to ask questions. So many students avoid asking questions because they don’t want to look dumb in class. They would rather keep silent and sacrifice potential failure instead. If you have a doubt, I can bet you that someone else is confused too. Don’t wait for that person to ask. They are just as scared as you are. Ask it. Get it clarified. Otherwise, your notes will not make sense. If you are confused after class you will end up spending countless hours of research trying to learn the material on your own.

Keep Zoned In

It can be easy to zone out during long lectures, but it is important to pay attention and try to understand the material. If you have trouble focusing, try sitting near the front of the classroom or taking breaks every 20 minutes or so to walk around and stretch.

Capture Big Ideas

Don’t just write down everything the professor says verbatim. That will make your notes hard to read and difficult to review later on. Also, don’t waste time writing down all the text on the PowerPoint slides in front of you. The slides will more than likely be given to you anyway. You will have time to get the notes off at that time. Instead, focus on writing down key concepts and ideas that will help you remember the lecture material. Jotting down key points can also be helpful for sparking discussion later on in class or for studying with a group.

Review the Notes As Soon As Possible

Review your notes soon after each lecture. This will help solidify the information in your mind and allow you to catch any mistakes you may have made while taking notes. Reviewing your notes regularly will also help you better retain the information come exam time. If you wait too long you will forget key ideas. This will cause you to spend more time studying than you would have needed to.

Organize Your Notes

Organize your notes by topic, class, or date. Keep them in the same sequence as the syllabus. In that way, it will be easy to know what to focus on for the next exam.

Rework your Notes

Rewrite your notes in a different study format such as bullet points, flashcards, or even audio recordings of you explaining the content. You may also choose to rewrite them in the form of practice questions and answers based on the exam questions that you anticipate.

Monetize Your Notes

Congratulations! At this point, you have excellent, top-quality notes. You have spent so much time making it perfect. Now it is time to make your notes work for you. Monetize them by uploading on Food Science Toolbox and selling them to your classmates. You will be doing them a great service by providing them with study notes based on what was actually covered in class and what they are most likely to be tested on. For that, they would be extremely grateful.

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Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons
Author, Dr. Courtney Simons has a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and a Ph. D. in Cereal Science from North Dakota State University.