How to have the most Effective Lecture Notes

When you go to college, going to lectures and taking notes on the information that you are given will become a key part of your study process. You will learn an awful lot from your lectures, but you need to make a note of what you are told if you want to remember it for the exam. If you are tempted to just rely on the hand-outs that your lecturer provides, you will have a note of the main points, but all the little extras that are given out will be missed. You can ensure that you make the most of lecture notes in the following ways: 

Prepare for the lecture in advance

You will probably be given some preparation to do before the lecture, perhaps in the form of a book in a chapter, a podcast, a journal article or some notes that the lecturer has put up on the college intranet. Make sure you read these notes. You may be right in thinking that the lecturer will go through the gist of what you are asked to read in the lecture, but if you are prepared in advance, what he says will make much more sense and, as a result, your notes will be of much more use to you. You are also more likely to be able to remember what you have learned.

Take detailed notes

If your lecturer has prepared a presentation, it may be tempting to just doodle a few notes around the slides and think that will do for note-taking. However, he is bound to say much more than is on the slides, so try and write down as much of it as possible. Even if he does stick very closely to the slides, there are bound to be things that you find hard to understand and that you need to explain in simpler language. As you become more proficient at note-taking, you will work out your own form of shorthand, so that you can write down even more information.

Record the lecture

To begin with at least, you may not be sure of your note-taking skills. It is, after all, quite difficult to listen properly and make notes of everything that is said at the same time. In that case, you may want to record the lecture; then you can play the lecture back afterwards and check that you have everything you need. Recorders in lecture theatres are generally common practice these days, although you may want to check with the lecturer first and find a convenient place to put the recorder. Not all lecturers like to stand in the same place, which could diminish the quality of the recording.

Read through your notes afterwards

If you’ve spent a whole lecture, or even series of lectures, taking notes, the last thing you will want to do is to read through them again. However, at some point in the next couple of days, you should get your notes out and look through them. If they’re hand-written and your writing isn’t very clear, you may want to type them up. By doing so, you can ensure that you don’t come back to your notes later and find you can’t understand them. Moreover, it assists in letting the information sink into your brain and is great for guaranteeing that you understand everything. If you don’t, then you can double check with the lecturer in plenty of time before the exam.

Compare them with a friend’s notes

Particularly when you are beginning your college course and are still getting used to note-taking, you may find that it is of value to get together with a friend or two and check that you have the same information. If you have missed anything out, hopefully one of them will have the notes. Don’t, however, get into the habit of taking it in turns to make notes; you should all try and write down as much as you can to ensure that you don’t miss anything. People’s brains work in different ways. You may take in slightly different information than your friend does and two brains are better than one.

File your notes carefully

You can take the best notes ever, but if they aren’t filed away carefully so that you can find them again, they aren’t of much use. If you type your notes up, make sure that you either back up all your documents, or that you print them off so that you have a hard copy. Make sure all notes are in chronological order and in subject order. Being able to lay your hands on what you want when you want is time-saving and ensures that you aren’t missing any information out. Don’t end up with half of your notes scrawled on bits of paper and the other half somewhere amidst millions of files on your computer, which could then crash.

Lectures are a vital part of your course; never be tempted to think that you can get all the information you need from books or by reading your lecturer’s presentation. Go to the lectures, take the best notes you can and then, by the time exams come around, you will have a great basis for your revision.