Imagine your class is taught by The Doctor – you’ll probably need to develop shorthand if you want to keep up with all of his notes. The same probably goes for most of your professors. Here are some quick and easy tips to improve your note-taking skills.

  1. Active Listening

Don’t just write whatever you’re hearing. By the time you review the notes, you won’t remember explanations or context. Make sure to actively listen instead of spending the entire lecture writing – and you’ll gain a better understanding of the lesson. You can do this best by familiarizing yourself with the material before each lecture, that way you can be more selective with your note-taking.

  1. Keep It Simple

We’re not all stenographers (well, unless you are a stenographer). You don’t have to include every word spoken in a lecture. Keep it to keywords and, wherever you can, shorten any unnecessary verbiage. For example, replace “with” with “w/” and “and” with “&.” Think of it like a tweet. You can only spare so many characters before you can post. Or think of it like a text you need to send just as your phone’s about to die. Basically, develop your own short hand.

  1. Handwrite

You may be a fan of typing up notes on your computer but, seriously, handwriting is the way to go. A recent study proved that students who handwrite their notes learn more than students using a laptop. It’s tougher than typing and slower, but again, that makes you more selective and efficient as a note-taker, which actually encourages students to retain more information.

  1. Take Breaks

Taking notes isn’t a race (unless you are in note-taking race then, well, get on that then). Take periodic short breaks and the quality of your notes will vastly improve. Taking notes is more like training for a race (even that aforementioned note-taking race – although that probably doesn’t exist). If you don’t take those breaks, then you’ll wear yourself out fast.

  1. Choose a System

Now that the basics are out of the way – it’s time to pick system. The Cornell Method (dividing the page into two columns) is built on following the 5 R’s: record, reduce, recite, reflect, and review. Plus, there’s the spacing component as seen here:

——2 1/2”——–  —————-6”——————–

Or, if that’s not your thing, try the Mapping Method, where you illustrate the lecture’s main points. This one is especially cool if you have any artistic inclination. There’s also the Sentence Method (every thought gets a new line), the Charting Method (making a chronology of the information you’re learning), and the Outlining Method (indenting the information as it is presented). These aren’t the only ones out there. You can always create a hybrid system or just follow the previous four points. This isn’t like Hogwarts where you’re assigned to being a Hufflepuff but, in your heart, you just want to hang out with the cool kids in Gryffindor. Whatever works for you is the system that’ll help you survive medical school.

What do you do to take notes? Sound off in the comments!

Related Articles

The Toughest Courses in Medical School

3 Ways to Build a Better Study Group