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The Art of Taking Notes

Note-taking is one of the skills that are often undermined in school. Having my own college just starting to go paperless , I realized that note-taking had never been a habit in my education life. In high school, we often receive photo-copied notes and simply highlight the important points. However, we may not have such privilege when we enrol into colleges or universities because textbooks can be expensive, and a single course may require us to refer to several textbooks. Note-taking would be the best approach for learning. So, what do you do when you have to start from scratch?What are notes for?

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help us study better. Some students tend to copy down completely of a reading material, which defeats the point of note-taking because they might as well get a photo-copied version. Instead, it should contain only the important points of a topic to be reviewed before an exam.What to write?

1) Digesting Information
The most important process of note-taking is thinking and filtering the information from your reading materials. When reading a paragraph, first identify it’s main idea, paraphrase it into your own words and write it down on your notes. This process helps you capture idea that the source is trying to delivery, thus making learning more efficient. It is a waste of time if you simply jolt down everything. Note-taking actually takes your effort to digest information.

2) Choose what’s important or new

While listening to a lecture or reading a book, focus on the important key words and leave the unnecessary details out. The important points can be definitions, theories, list of pros and cons and graphs. You should be able to elaborate on a topic using the key words that you choose, as these key words are the main ingredients of an idea. Also, only write things that are new to you. For example, if you already know that Malaysia’s independence date is 31 August 1957, there is no point jolting that down in your notes.

3) Mind Maps

Mind map of Mind Map – Mindmeption!

Mind-mapping, often seen as a rather childish thing, is actually a very effective way of learning. Mind maps are the best structure to keep track of the relationships from main topics to sub-topics. With a main heading at the centre, you can branch out sub-topics as your lecturer elaborates the topic. You should be able to recall everything you’ve learn at a glance of your mind map.

4) Bullets and Symbols

Efficient note-taking involves using bullets and symbols systematically. This means that you should set specific symbols for certain usages. For instance, “:” for definition, “-” for elaboration and “(…) ” for examples. This system helps you save time because you are able to see the information in an organized manner. By consistently practicing the set of symbols, you may eventually get used to the system when it comes to note-taking.

There’s no running-away from note-taking in the academic world. It may seems to be a havoc when you start practicing note-taking; but once you get used to it, your notes could be the key of scoring A in an exam. With this, I may publicly reveal one of my disastrous piece in my younger days of note-taking – something that you SHOULD NOT DO:

I can’t feel my eyes now.


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