Note-taking is a skill that can help you do well on all your schoolwork — everything from taking tests to researching a paper. Here are some tips on how to take good notes.
Write down key facts. If you have a teacher who writes notes on the board, that's a bonus: You can copy them down. If not, write down the most important points from class. Does your history teacher mention the date of a key Civil War battle? Does your English teacher give examples of Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony? Does your math teacher go over a particular formula? Write it down!
It can take time to learn how to listen for the main ideas and key facts, so keep trying and don't give up. Some teachers may mention lots of dates and facts in class, but only write the key ones on the board. Other teachers might not write anything down, but may repeat a certain date or piece of information. That's a clue that it's probably important. After a while, you'll get to know a teacher's style.
Don't overdo it. Don't go crazy taking notes, though: You'll be frantic if you try to write down every word that's said in class. And if you focus too much on getting your notes right, you might miss listening to what the teacher is saying. Some people actually learn better by listening, writing down a few key points, and then going over the material after class when they have more time.
Ask. Don't be afraid to ask the teacher to repeat something you miss. If the teacher's going too fast, chances are your classmates will also be relieved to hear the information again. If you don't want to ask in class, see your teacher afterwards. It's much easier than wondering if you got the notes right as you study.
Compare. Keep your notes handy when you're doing your reading assignments. Compare what you wrote with what the readings say — you can add to your notes as you read.
Going over your notes with a friend and comparing what the two of you put down can help reinforce what you're learning. It also can help you remember information when it's time for the test. And going over your notes will alert you and your friend to any errors.
Copy. If you've scribbled down notes in a hurry, you might not be able to read them when it comes time to prepare for a test. Look over your notes when you get home, and recopy them if you need to. Copying them also helps you learn and remember what you wrote.
Organize. Keep notes for each subject in one place so you can find everything easily when it comes time for a test. This could mean keeping a notebook or section of a notebook for each subject as you take notes in class.
Some people combine the copying technique with organization by using just one notebook for class notes and then copying these notes into a notebook for each subject when they get back home. The trick to making this technique work is to be sure you actually do it regularly. If you don't, your notes will be all over the place and things will get totally crazed when it's time to study for the test.
Good note-taking takes time. But the time you spend writing and reviewing notes pays off. Taking time to recopy your notes each evening saves time later when it comes to studying for the actual test.
Note-taking gives your mind a chance to absorb the material it needs to learn. Not only can this help you to do better on a test, it's also a great confidence booster when you're studying and find yourself saying, "Hey, I remember that!"