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Make Your Notes a Study Tool

During class, you were listening and trying to record important information. Hopefully, you wrote down all of the important information. But writing the information down in class is only half the point of taking notes. Making your notes into a useful study tool is also important!!!

There are different ways to make your notes a useful study tool. Here are some suggestions:

  • If your notes are sloppy, you can copy them more neatly. It will be easier to study from the more legible notes later. Copying will also give you an opportunity to review the information.
  • Although it takes time, rewriting your notes can be very productive. Rewriting is not the same thing as re-copying. Rewriting your notes entails customizing them, so to speak, so that they take a shape that makes sense to you and that you find useful for studying, learning, understanding, and remembering. For example:
    • Reorganize your notes in a way that fits with the way you think and remember, since how you organize may be different than the way your professor presented the information in class.
    • Make lists or devise new categories for sorting information.
    • Identify and emphasize connections between information.
  • Cross-reference your class notes with notes you take from your textbook. If you take notes from your textbook, you can do this. You might add to your lecture notes a note to see a particular page or pages of your textbook if there is a helpful chart or an important example that coincides with your notes from class.
  • Number the pages of your notebook so that you can cross-reference your class notes. Perhaps something a professor covered in class two weeks ago is related to something he/she covered today. You might indicate what earlier page from your notebook you need to reference while you are preparing for an exam
  • You can highlight or underline the important information from your notes as you might highlight your textbook.

There are two important reasons to review and customize your notes after class:

  • You can discover what you don’t understand long before you open you notes to study for an exam. If you discover that you don't understand something, you can ask the professor or read your book to develop an understanding. The last thing you want is to be surprised while studying for an exam, finding out that something you covered in class three weeks ago doesn’t make sense!
  • You can prepare for the next class by having a better grasp of what you did the class before. The material in courses is provided to students incrementally, meaning that what you learn one day is the foundation of what you will learn the next. Learning the foundation will make it easier for you to learn the new information each time it comes.