Which is the most effective way to take notes?


People tend to lose almost 40% of new information within the first 24 hours of first reading or hearing it. If notes are taken effectively , it is possible to retain and retrieve almost 100% of the received information. Effective note taking is interactive, and it concerns using the original notes numerous times to build memory of the content. The rate of forgetting is minimized if students re-read their notes the same day they have taken it.

The Cornell method

With this method, it will be especially easy to retain information. A student should divide a page into two columns. The left one is narrower, and it is intended for jotting larger ideas. The right column, should contain as much information as possible and it can be messy, or contain tables and pictures. Students should try to often cover the detailed notes on the right and just examine the main points. This way they will be able to realize how much they can recite and explain in their own words. Afterwards, they can remove their hand and see if they memorized it right, or not. Depending on the teacher, it is possible to do this during lulls in the discussion or after class.


Colored pencils, highlighters and colored pens could be a great aid for students. They can use the color code to indicate key ideas, changes in concepts or links between information, and only that. They should not try to highlight everything, because in that way nothing will actually be emphasized. Moreover, colors are great for connecting key chunks of material in the notes pages. The creative side of the brain is stimulated precisely by colours, and they help us visually separate and recall distinct themes of the stuff that has been worked through.

Digitalize your notes

Considering we are living in the era of technology, it is quite natural to use our laptops, tablets and smartphones for taking notes, and presenting materials. A student could try to type an outline on it, and if anything needs to be rewritten or added, it is simpler than ever. It does not require crossing out words, and leaving a messy page, because a student can easily delete anything that is wrong, and retype it in a second.

Shorthand system

This system helps considerably, especially if a teacher talks fast and a student can barely keep up with listening him, and let alone writing something down. Abbreviations, the use of symbols and leaving out vowels are the most common ways to do this. The use of symbols is highly recommended while taking chemistry notes. Chemistry involves writing down formulas, so writing symbols instead of a whole word, in a sentence and in a formula will save a lot of time.

Mind Mapping

The best aspect of mind mapping is that it provides students with the option of visually connecting ideas together via a circle and lines. In this way, connections between ideas are formed much easily. Firstly, a student should draw a circle with an overall topic in the center of a paper. Later, he or she should draw lines from the circle to subtopics. In case some topics start to overlap, multiple lines can be connected to the subtopic. This is a good method for those who have trouble keeping track with the professor who likes to jump from topic to topic. Once they have a mind map, they can easily find a certain subtopic and add more information if needed.

Taking notes is highly recommended during education. It helps students learn the material faster, and better. Some textbooks are not very clear and may be hard to understand, so notes from lectures can be of great help. The best method is the one that suits the student the most. Therefore, everyone should choose the one they feel most comfortable learning from.

By Gabriella Diesendorf