Hafsa Ahsan discusses the art of taking notes during lectures

Lectures given by different teachers through the course of the semester hold a lot of importance. The vitality of these lectures lies in the fact that out of a broad based topic, it is only the lecture given in the class that determines the specific aspects you have to pay special attention to.

Now let’s be a little realistic here. Most of us would like to believe that our memories are extremely good, and that the main points in a lecture will be permanently etched in our brain the whole year around. Unfortunately, while this may be true for a very few people, it isn’t for the majority. As the semester proceeds and you cover a diverse range of topics, it is more than likely that you will forget what you learnt at the beginning of the semester.

This is where noting down lectures comes in handy. By noting down I don’t really mean that you act as a typewriter for your teacher, but that you jot down important points as reminders, so that at the end of the semester you know how to approach that specific topic when studying for exams.

When we talk of different skills related to studying, there are certain techniques for noting down lectures. The following pointers will definitely help you out in this area:

Keep a separate register for every subject

Now I know those of you, who have around five to eight classes per day, can’t manage such a load, especially if you have to take your textbooks along as well. The key is to either keep a thin register or college notebook of around 60 pages or, if that’s not possible, divide one register and use it for two subjects.

The reason behind this pointer is that it becomes very easy and convenient at the end of the day, if you have all your subject lectures in one place, instead of scattered around in two or more registers. Plus, it happens sometimes that teachers leave a topic unfinished at the end of the class hour. Then, when the topic is continued in the next class and you are using one register for all your subjects, things fall in place; but if you are using the same register for many, then it will only add to the confusion.

Write in short hand

I know I shouldn’t really write this, since this is a generally known fact. However, I have seen many people write full sentences, when they are taking down lectures, and because of this they miss out on a lot. When you’re writing down the lecture, use the same language that you do when sending an SMS or chatting.

Write phrases, not sentences

This follows from the above point. You shouldn’t be writing sentences, when you’re taking down lectures. For instance, the teacher says: “There are three states of matter. Number one is solids, number two is liquids, and number three is gases.” If you’re an astute note taker, then what you write should resemble this: 3 states of matter: solid, liquid, gas. The trick is to listen to the whole sentence of the teacher and then note it down in a phrase.

Make appropriate headings and subheadings

One of the most amusing things I have come across is that when the lecture is written in an essay-type or linear form; the notes made later out of those lectures are decorated with headings. Headings and subheadings are supposed to be made distinctly, when you are noting down the lecture and not later. Whenever the teacher mentions what she will be teaching that day, note it as a heading. Number your headings and subheadings clearly. Remember, you can always sort them out, rearrange, and renumber them later.

Leave spaces

It wouldn’t do to economize on the space in your register. It sometimes happens that you have no time to fair out your lectures. The best approach is to note down your lectures in a way that even if you don’t make separate notes, you can easily revise a topic from your lecture. That isn’t to say that you rely only on your lecture, but that you use it as a revision tool. And for that you must leave ample of space between the different headings, subheadings and points. Also leave spaces, if you are unsure of a point or you have missed a point.

Rely on your own lecture notes

Now you may think that noting lectures is one of the most boring activities in class, and you’d rather spend the time chatting with your friends and take the register of some other student later on for photocopying the stuff. But I will strongly advise you against such a shortcut. Firstly, something that you have written yourself will be easy for you to comprehend. Secondly, if the student who lends you the register has written in shorthand (and each student has his / her shorthand), it will take you ages to decipher what is written. And thirdly, what if she / he has written something you understand perfectly and skipped something you don’t (may be because she/he understood that part and didn’t feel the need to write it down?). So, instead of taking shortcuts, note down your own lectures and rely on them only.

I know most of the above was almost like stating the obvious. But it wouldn’t hurt to revise all this and keep some of these in mind, when you attend your next class. Happy note taking!