How to Take Faster (and Way Better) Notes
“So, moving onto the next topic . . .”
“Wait, Ms P! I’m still writing down what you said a minute ago. Can you go back for me?”
I heard this a lot, usually from the same kids over and over again. Some students really struggled to keep up with lecture, no matter how slowly I went. While some students had language or processing issues, many kids were just making the entire process hard for themselves.
When you take notes, you’re actually doing 2 things at once – the physical act of writing or typing and the mental processing of information. The goal is to keep these two tasks balanced. Students who spend too much time on the writing part lose out on the processing part. And that processing part is pretty darn important!
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Here are ways to take notes faster in class, feel more confident, and understand the content better!
How to Take Faster Notes in Class
What You Shouldn’t Do
First, let me start with what you shouldn’t do: use a laptop. This will come as a disappointment to many, but typing notes is less useful than handwriting them.
Studies have shown that students who handwrite notes not only remember the content better in the short and long term, but they also understand the content better. So, bust out your paper and pencil! Or pens – whatever floats your boat.
“But wait, I can type faster than I can write!” That might be true, but what you’re typing just isn’t as useful. And there are ways to cut down on what you’re actually writing to save time.
If you try to write down each and every word your instructor says, you will never be able to keep up. You must limit what you write and just write down the most important ideas.
This is when you need to paraphrase. Put your teacher’s comments into your own words. Writing down fewer words allows you to take faster notes and keep up with the lecture.
Use a note-taking style
Research different note-taking styles and pick one to use consistently. You will get used to the format quickly and save time setting up and/ or formatting your notes.
Write in cursive
That’s right, I said cursive. Do you know why cursive was invented? Because it’s faster than printing. Every time you lift your pen = time wasted. When writing in cursive, your pen stays on the paper for longer period of times. That means you can write faster. Plus, you can create an awesome signature for yourself 🙂
Granted, many students can’t write in cursive or it takes them forever. However, you can print off practice sheets on the internet and improve both your cursive writing and speed. Start mixing your notes between printing and cursive.
Use abbreviations and symbols
There are of LOTS of words that you can abbreviate to take faster notes. While there are many standard abbreviations, you can also create your own.
For example, one semester I took a Constitutional law class. Do you know how many times in a class period my professor said the word “constitutional”? About eleventy billion. I learned to write down “Const.” for Constitution, constitutional, constitutionality, etc. It saved me a ton of time during class.
Alternately, use symbols – such as arrows, shapes, etc – to show relationships. Another common technique is to drop 1 or 2 vowels from words, such as e, i, or u. Your brain can still decipher the words quickly even though they are missing letters.
Limit other distractions
For the love of God, put your phone, tablet, or laptop away. They will capture your attention with every buzz or ping and you will miss something important your teacher said.
If you’re in a classroom, try to sit closer to the instructor. If you’re far away, you may have problems hearing. Plus, students in front of you (and their bad habits) become a distraction for you.
These tips should speed up the note-taking process for you. Don’t expect a miracle overnight, but