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The Very Best Note-Taking Tips & Tricks

End-of-session, summer school, internship training sessions: There’s always a new reason you need to take notes, and you want to make sure you’re capturing all the important info that’s being thrown at you in the most efficient way possible. From old school pen-and-paper tricks to super useful apps, there are loads of tips and tools out there to optimize the whole process—and dare we say make it more entertaining? Read on to get seriously schooled.

Be prepared.
This might seem obvious, but before you even head to class, do a quick check to make sure you have what you need. This might mean paper, pens, pencils, and highlighters (with backups, of course), and/or your laptop with the power cord. If you prefer to take notes by hand, stay organized and focused by always using the same-sized sheets of paper, preferably bound in a book or on a pad.

Most of us don’t have time for a lesson in shorthand, and even transcribing on a keyboard can be a challenge. So, what should you do? Create your own abbreviations, particularly for connector words so you have more time to jot down the meaty info. For instance, use “d/n” for “do not” and “bf” for “before.” Also, quickly scrawled symbols like =, <, and > can go a long way. Just make sure you understand your own shortcuts!

Colour, colour, colour.
If you’re a visual person, devise a colour-coding system using highlighters and rainbow pens or try out colourful type on your computer. This will help you organise the info as you go! Not to mention, a dose of colour will make your notes more aesthetically pleasing, thus giving you some added motivation to look at them again and again. The same goes for nice fonts on your laptop! Hey, whatever works, right?

Really review.
Set aside a few minutes after you finish taking your notes to go back and tweak them. While you still have fresh memories of the lecture, plug in any points you might have missed, flesh out vague notations, and add extra explanations you feel you’ll need later. And really, do this right away—it’s easy to forget the salient details once you head to your next class. To retain what you’ve learned, continue to review your notes throughout the semester.

Sharing is caring.
Give your notes to your classmates and vice versa! Pooling your resources means filling in any holes you might have missed individually, not to mention augmenting the knowledge you already have. There’s a motivation factor, too: If you know you’ll be sharing with your peers, you’re more likely to do a better note-taking job in the first place. Consider this a positive result of peer pressure!

Within a day of each note-taking session, review and revise your notes and write a short summary at the bottom of the page. This helps make sure you understand all your notes and retain what you learned.

OK, did you get all that? We sure hope so.

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