Tailor Your Note Taking Style to Match the Way You Learn

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Victoria Bankowski
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Note taking is an essential part of college. We all take notes differently, either based on our own personal preferences, skills or abilities. It’s important to adjust your method to your own personal needs.

Early in my college career I didn’t understand why taking basic notes was so challenging to me. Then I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, in addition to my preexisting ADHD. While I was upset with the diagnosis, I was also relieved. Knowing that this is something other students have worked through, I would be able to work through it, too. Note taking is very difficult for me because of the wiring in my brain. It requires the ability to listen, comprehend and translate the given materials into text to be used later. Dyslexia affects the way I perceive information and dysgraphia affects the way I transpose the information in my notes. I learned through experience how to adapt the way I take notes to align with my educational needs.  Here are 4 tips that helped me succeed.  

Handwritten vs. Typewritten

When taking notes on a reading assignment or even a lecture I focus on taking down the main points.  Writing by hand strengthens the learning process.   When writing by hand the brain receives feedback from our motor actions, together with the sensation of touching the pen and paper.  More information is collected through typing but less of the information is can be recalled later.

Find helpful technology

My university suggested I purchase smartpen. The pen is a recording device which allows my paper notes become interactive with the professor’s lecture!  I can touch any point in my notebook (it’s a special notebook for use with the the smartpen) and hear exactly what the professor was saying at that moment.

Emphasize important points

Learn how to decipher the most important information. Good note-taking habits include asking an instructor for clarification when the materials being presented are not making sense.  Highlighting helps with organization of notes. Using different colors to represent various categories will help you recall the material.  Highlighting can also be used to mark cues the instructor may give as to what may or may not be on a test.

Collaboration is key

Share your notes with other students and ask them if your concepts are clear.  At the same time read over their notes.  By reading other students’ notes you are reinforcing what you have learned.   You may find that your classmates have a trick or two of their own that you’ll find helpful.

When I began to understand the importance of taking good notes, I began to think more critically. The picture which was being created through instructor lectures became more defined.  My notes are far from perfect, but they are becoming more clear the more practice I get.  Good luck with your studies, and let’s get note-taking!


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