Note-Taking: Take Better Notes, Relationship Between Time and Memory

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Many students come to the Office of Learning Resources (OLR) at Weingarten (WLRC) looking for strategies and tips on how to take better notes.

While the jury is still out on whether handwritten or typed notes are better, what we do know is that what matters more than how you take notes is what you do after with your notes.

Even if you are a student who is prepared for class and takes incredibly detailed notes, within 1 day of class, our minds forget nearly 75% of what we learned:

  • See the graph below for a visual representation of Time vs. Memory:

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  • If we don’t return to our notes until the week before the exam, we have already forgotten much of what we have learned. Instead of actually studying, we are stuck relearning the material.
  • The good news is that there is a simple solution to make sure you retain much of what you have learned during class:
Actively review your notes within 24-36 hours of class!

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  • By taking the time to review notes for just 30 minutes within 24-36 hours of class, you can reinforce what you learned and prevent this memory loss.
  • Make sure you are actively reviewing your notes (don’t just re-read or skim your notes, it’s too easy to just glaze over what you originally wrote).

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Here are some tips for how to actively review your notes:

  • Create an active recall study sheet:
    • On a blank sheet of paper, spend 5 minutes writing down everything you can from class and your readings. Then go back to your notes to fill in the gaps)
  • Annotate your notes in a different colored pen
  • Synthesize your notes into a study guide or summary
  • Use the Cornell method
  • Create a Concept Map
  • In a vocabulary-heavy class, create flashcards or a Quizlet
The hardest part of this strategy is actually fitting this review time into your schedule!
  • I recommend making this a habit by scheduling time to review your notes from the last class before you start your reading for the next class or before you begin your related homework.
  • Making this a routine will go a long way in improving your learning, strengthening your memory, and increasing your grades.

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

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