How to take effective notes

BY MAY 26 2015

Around 50% of what you hear is immediately forgotten; two days later, another 25% is lost from memory. But there are several ways to overcome this problem. The most common reason for making notes is to create a record and for future recall.

Generally, students who make notes and review them within 24 hours recall significantly more information than those who don’t take notes or take notes but don’t review them. Note-taking aids memory, facilitates the flow of ideas, improves understanding of a subject and allows us to record relevant information.

By reviewing your notes and familiarising yourself with them, you will find it easier to recall information during exams. Preparation is key – ensure you are poised to listen and equipped to record what you hear.

Focus on the meaning of what’s being said and question its relevance to your purpose; you can then evaluate the information and summarise it in your own words. It is counterproductive to make pages of notes that you’ll never use or copy large chunks of text.

Top tips for note-taking:

    • Be organised and prepared: read your module handbook and familiarise yourself with topics prior to class.



    • Listen attentively


    • Be an active – not passive – learner


    • Ask questions if you don’t understand something


    • If your tutor writes something on the board, write it down


    • Make notes clear and concise


    • Develop your own shorthand


    • Summarise in your own words


    • Make notes aesthetically interesting – use mind maps, charts and highlighters to draw attention to titles, topics and key words


    • Share your notes – this creates discussion and provides an opportunity to pick up things you missed


    • Once you’ve taken your effective notes, read them within 24 hours to commit them to long-term memory