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Note-taking Tips

Taking notes can become a chore if not done properly. How are your note-taking skills?  How do you take notes?  Think about the following:

  • Organization - can you locate your notes for each class?
  • Legible - can you read what you have written?
  • Understanding - when you read your notes back, do you understand them? Could you explain them to another student?
  • Style - how do you take notes? Do you highlight, abbreviate, use your margins?

There are many good examples of note-taking techniques. Below are a few samples of note-taking methods. Try each out to see which you prefer.

The value of note taking is that it organizes and clarifies what you read and what you hear. It allows you to summarize what you have absorbed and then reflect, connect ideas, fill in the gaps, and address questions or concerns over ideas or concepts that are not understood.

Reading Tips

How are your reading skills? Do you recognize the main point? Are you able to successfully summarize what you have just read? Do you stop and highlight instead of reading through the assignment first?

Reading assignments can be daunting if not approached in the right mindset. Read your homework thoroughly before taking notes and highlighting. When you have read through the material, then go back and highlight and review. 

To get more out of your reading assignment, try these tips:

  • Read through your text assignment before taking notes
  • Begin reading by:
    • Previewing the introduction and conclusion
    • Review all the headings
    • Reading the assignment

After reading the material go back and take notes. At this point, you will have touched the material three times by previewing/overview, reading, and taking notes. This repetition will increase your comprehension of the material.

Reading can become a detriment if your reading speed is slow. The average speed we read is 150-250 words per minute. Test your reading speed by reading for one minute and then counting your words. This exercise will give you an idea of how slow or fast you read.

To increase your reading speed, try these tips:

  • Put your hand physically on the page and use your fingers as a guide as you read. This will give you a visual reference. Of course, this takes practice but should help build your speed by 20-30 percent as well as give you increased focus and comprehension.
  • Read for 20 minutes and then stop, marking the spot where you finished reading. Then, re-read for 10 minutes trying to get to the same finishing point. You will notice the speed of your reading has increased along with your concentration. Like everything, this must be practiced. Try this every day for two weeks to notice a difference.

Online reading can be more difficult and much slower than reading from a text. If you are having difficulty reading from a website, try the following:

  • Adjust the brightness of your screen so you are not squinting to read.
  • Try accelareader.com to learn to increase the speed of your reading.

Remember, the most important aspect of reading for understanding is to allow yourself enough time. Do not rush, give yourself time to read, organize, and review.

Study Tips for Exams

Studying for exams can be a daunting process. Preparation is the key to successful studying. To start:

  • Know when your exam will take place
  • Know where your exam will take place (online or in the classroom)
  • Create a study plan for the exam
  • Be clear on how many chapters the exam will cover
  • Decide how many days you will need to study

Begin with a broad overview of your notes. Determine what are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the knowledge of the material. Chart your knowledge:

Strong Moderate Weak
Information you know completely (total confidence) and do not need to spend much time reviewing. Information you are semi-sure about but need to review. Information you have not retained and need to spend additional time reviewing.

When preparing to study, try the following tips to assist you along the process. Some of these ideas can be started well before it is time to study to make your exam preparation easier and less stressful.

Create study checklists to identify all of the material that you believe will be on the exam--list notes, formulas, ideas, and text assignments you have been assigned. This checklist will enable you to break your studying into organized, manageable chunks, which should allow for a comprehensive review plan with minimal anxiety.

Create summary notes and "maps" which outline the important ideas of the course and the relationships of these ideas. Summary notes should display lists and hierarchies of ideas. Creativity and a visual framework will help you recall these ideas.

Record your notes and significant portions of text on your phone so you can review material. Having a recording of important information will enable you to study while walking or relaxing in a nonacademic environment.

Create flashcards for definitions, formulas, or lists that you need to have memorized--put topics on one side of the card, answers on the other. Flashcards will enable you to test your ability to not only recognize important information, but also your ability to retrieve information from scratch. Tip: if you prefer online flashcards, try StudyBlue or Quizlet.

How many chapters are covered on your exam, and how familiar you are with the material, will determine how long you should study. It is best to split your studying over several days. Start a week before, especially if you have multiple exams, and take your time. Procrastination is real when it comes to studying. Tip: set the timer on your phone or computer for 30 minutes and devote that time to studying for your test. Eliminate your distractions. When 30 minutes is up take a break then repeat the process. By getting rid of distractions and concentrating in shorter increments will help you retain the material you are studying.

If you study in increments over several days, the night before the exam you should only have to briefly review your material to be prepared for your exam.

For more information about different exam strategies, please visit our Testing Strategies page.

For information about time-management strategies, please see our Time-Management Guide page.

 

Works Cited

Nowak, P. (2015). Learning Study Skills [Video File]. Retrieved from LinkedIn

Kelly, K. (2015). Teaching with Technology [Video File]. Retrieved from LinkedIn

Study Guides and Strategies (2016). Retrieved from web.archive.org  

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