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AEP Study Tips

There are numerous reasons for taking lecture notes.

  • Making yourself take notes forces you to listen carefully and test your understanding of the material.
  • When you are reviewing or studying, notes provide a gauge to what is important in the text.
  • Personal notes are usually easier to remember than the text.
  • The writing down of important points helps you to remember them even before you have studied the material formally.

Instructors usually give clues to what is important to take down. Some of the more common clues are:

  • Material written on the blackboard.
  • Repetition
  • Emphasis
    - Emphasis can be judged by tone of voice and gesture.
    - Emphasis can be judged by the amount of time the instructor spends on points and the number of examples he or she uses.
  • Word signals (e.g. "There are two points of view on . . . " "The third reason is . . . " " In conclusion . . . ")
  • Summaries given at the end of class.
  • Reviews given at the beginning of class.

Each student should develop his or her own method of taking notes, but most students find the following suggestions helpful:

  • Make your notes brief.
  • Never use a sentence where you can use a phrase. Never use a phrase where you can use a word.
  • Use abbreviations and symbols, but be consistent.
  • Put most notes in your own words. However, the following should be noted exactly:
         - Formulas
         - Definitions
         - Specific facts
  • Use outline form and/or a numbering system. Indentation helps you distinguish major from minor points.
  • If you miss a statement, write key words, skip a few spaces, and get the information later.
  • Don't try to use every space on the page. Leave room for coordinating your notes with the text after the lecture.
  • Date your notes and number the pages.

Save Time on Notetaking

  • First is simple: DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!
  • Second, do not record the lesson on a cassette tape or any other tape. The lecture on tape precludes flexibility; however, the lecture on tape has to be listened to in its entirety including the worthwhile points as well as the "garbage," handwritten notes may be studied selectively. A student who takes the easy way out - recording the lecture on tape as he or she sits back doing nothing - will box him or herself into inflexibility.
  • Third, Highlighting is a passive activity. It's okay to highlight but, make sure you are taking annotated notes as well in the margins.

Note Making Advice

1. Don't write down everything that you read or hear. Be alert and attentive to the main points. Concentrate on the "meat" of the subject and forget the trimmings.

2. Notes should consist of key words or very short sentences. If a speaker gets sidetracked it is often possible to go back and add further information.

3. Take accurate notes. You should usually use your own words, but try not to change the meaning. If you quote directly from an author, quote correctly.

4. Think a minute about your material before you start making notes. Don't take notes just to be taking notes! Take notes that will be of real value to you when you look over them at a later date.

5. Have a uniform system of punctuation and abbreviation that will make sense to you. Use a skeleton outline and show importance by indenting. Leave lots of white space for later additions.

6. Omit descriptions and full explanations. Keep your notes short and to the point. Condense your material so you can grasp it rapidly.

7. Don't worry about missing a point.

8. Don't keep notes on oddly shaped pieces of paper. Keep notes in order and in one place.

9. Shortly after making your notes, go back and rework (not redo) your notes by adding extra points and spelling out unclear items. Remember, we forget rapidly. Budget time for this vital step just as you do for the class itself.

10. Review your notes regularly. This is the only way to achieve lasting memory.

Click here for more information on Note Taking and Active Reading.

Click here for more information on Organization, Motivation and Goal-setting.

©Academic Enrichment Program, Morgan State University 2017.