Having been in full-time education for (give or take) 18 years, I’d say I felt pretty experienced and confident at taking notes before coming to university. Little did I know how different the expectation was for taking notes at lectures compared with at classrooms.
- Used paper/notebooks
- Wrote down every single thing that my teacher said
- Wrote down every single thing on the board
- Never looked or touched it again until exam time
This method didn’t work at uni because the professors didn’t write down every single detail you needed on the board; they never waited for you to finish writing notes and moved onto the next slides without care; they expected you to have read in advanced about the topics that were discussed in lectures.
It was overwhelming. I thought that I was a bad student for not being able to keep up. The main solution I came up with to aid me, at first, was to write faster, which was why I traded in my notebooks for my laptop. While this did help, it didn’t really change the fact that I couldn’t type my notes and listen to what was being said and retain the information at the same time. I knew that I needed to change something and make my notes more concise.
In the end, I realised that only the relevant information should be noted down – e.g. the summary of case facts, the ratio decidendi (legal rule) and any critical analysis mentioned. After lectures, I would make fresh notes – using the Cornell Method – by hand from my typed notes because I’ve noticed that the information I learn sinks in more when I physically write stuff out. It also makes my work more comprehensive, which would later assist me in my coursework and exams.
- Use laptop
- Write down only relevant information from my professor
- Write down only key information from the board/slides
- Always redo notes after my lectures
Just because I’ve adopted this style of note-taking doesn’t mean it works for everyone. For example, it’s not compulsory to use your laptops. If you’re more comfortable using notebooks, go for it. It’s really all about individuals’ preference.