How to take notes? A practical guide for learners

A quill and some parchment paper

The moment we reach grade 8 or 9, one of the questions that pop up in our mind is: how to take notes? I know every one of us might have thought about it at least a few times by now. And I too am no exception to this, especially during my graduation and post-graduation. I love taking notes, and the reason is simple. It makes my  work ten times easier. I don’t have to go through texts again, I can revise everything in a short period, and it takes me an inch closer to my  dream life.

I’ll share with you a method (step-wise) that worked best for me. It may or may not suit your needs. However, by the end of this article, there will be at least one thing you’d be able to take away. I’ll not go into the technical details and the number of different ways to do it. I’ll talk about what exactly worked, something that is tried and tested.

Let’s begin.

  1. The first and most important thing is to plan. Some of us like to make notes on paper or flashcards, some of us like it on our i-pad and others may want them organized on their laptop. Everything is fine. It is your journey, and you need to be comfortable. I particularly like the handwritten ones. I feel I memorize the topics better when I write rather than typing. But to be honest, if your notes are on the computer, it’ll be easy to organize and access them on other devices of yours too. Hence, choose wisely. But don’t spend much time on it. Plan the subject you want to take notes for, and sit in a place where there are lesser or no distractions. Have essentials like water and some snacks nearby in case you want to binge on mid-way.
  2. The next step is to read the text if you are doing this by yourself. Or listen actively, if you are in a classroom. Active listening is a crucial skill that will help you in many situations in your career and life. It is a method in which you listen to understand what the opposite person is trying to say rather than advising or giving out judgements. In a classroom, I’d suggest you note down everything that the Professor says. Don’t think about whether it is necessary or no. Listen, understand and write. Clear your doubts, if any. And once you are at home, open the topic in the text and read it. Completely and thoroughly. The best method is to read it at least three times. Don’t highlight anything in the first go. Just read and try to understand. In your second reading, underline what you feel is crucial with a pencil. And in the third reading, highlight what you think is of utmost significance, and what according to you is tough to retain. Have a focus on definitions, concepts, diagrams and new information. These will go into your final crisp notes.
  3. Now write down everything that you highlighted in the third reading. Try to write short sentences. Some of us, like me, learn better with pictures or mind-maps. Hence, I used to draw diagrams as and when possible. For example, if I wanted to remember different parts of a plant, instead of writing down paragraphs in my notes, I drew a plant & labelled its parts. This way, I’d memorize the whole picture and visualize it in my exam.
  4. Now learn what you have written. And then try to answer questions related to the topic. Buy a question bank and test your knowledge as much as you can. We can get these questions for free on the internet. But don’t leave a single topic behind. This step is most important to build your self-confidence.
  5. And last but not least: review your notes. While doing step 4, did you feel you couldn’t answer some questions? Or that you missed out any essential information? If yes, then include them too in your notes. Make them flawless. Use different pens if you need to. Personalize and make it more attractive. It should not be a pain to look at it a day before your exam.

Now when your notes are ready: Trust your hard work, study, learn and take over the world.

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