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Increase your retention of information through improved note taking


1 Before

Effective note taking will make your revision time more productive, increasing your retention and understanding of information. Prior to each lecture (which you must attend – never rely on other people’s notes), review your notes from the previous session; this will help make connections with what you’re about to learn. Ensure you’re properly equipped with pens, calculator, and relevant textbooks, and be ready to grab any handouts. Sit as close to the front as possible and open your mind.

2 During
Note anything – verbal or visual – that indicates the proposed content and structure to help organise your notes later. Don’t try to write down everything – distil your notes to key words (sorted by importance and relevance to what may be examined), as well as including any reference sources. Use lists, abbreviations, underlining, and highlighting. Try ‘spidergrams’ to connect facts and ideas. Pay attention right to the end – you may miss crucial points if you’re busy packing your bag to rush off.

3 After
Don’t be afraid of asking the lecturer if you’re confused about anything – the chances are that other students will be too. Re-read and write up your notes as soon as possible when you leave – before you forget anything you heard but didn’t write down. Try to recall any examples or opinions that were given. Leave margin spaces for more notes or comments for future revision, or to mark those topics needing further clarification at a tutorial. Finally, organise and store your notes systematically. 

Last updated: 20 Apr 2015