Top five ways to take notes

Methods for note taking
By Alex Burden, Student Blog

14 January 2019

It’s time to take your note-taking skills to the next level. Investigate and experiment with these five methods for yourself, as well as specialist easy-to-read fonts for people with dyslexia.

1. The Cornell method

You can use the Cornell Method to organise your notes during class – this involves dividing your notebook into a smaller left column and wider right-hand column. In the right column you will take notes during the class, and after the class you can assign keywords, cues, summaries and any questions about the material in the left-hand column.

When reviewing these notes, cover up the right-hand column, and try and recall the information associated with those prompts. When you think you’ve covered all the key points, check how much you accurately remembered.

ICAS notes are designed with a wide margin at the side, so you can use this method in class without having to copy out notes when the lecturer is teaching.

2. The Mapping Method

This method works well for creative or visual learners. Write the main topic of the class in the centre of your notes, and write the related information around this topic. Lines can be used to connect different ideas to each other, and how they relate to the main topic.

You can test yourself by covering your connections and trying to memorise how these pieces of information connect to each other, and why. This technique is especially helpful for revision summaries or at guest lectures, as you generally won’t be familiar with the content or structure during the latter.

3. The Charting / Categorising Method

Before class starts, select the topics that will be covered on that day, and write these in a side column (leaving yourself enough space for each category). Throughout the class, you can note down information connected with these topics. This also helps with grouping related ideas together for retention.

4. Symbols, abbreviations, and shorthand

If you don’t have the very useful skill of shorthand (few of us do!), then making up your own symbols can be helpful for taking notes at speed. First, assign easy to read (and draw) symbols, for instance, a square to indicate learning outcomes that will be essential for your exam.

They can be anything, as long as they have meaning for you. The same applies to abbreviations: ICAS has developed a list of key abbreviations used throughout CA qualification, which you can view and print here. You can also create your own – just don’t forget to have a master list of what these mean!

5. Split Page Method

Like the Cornell Method, divide your page into two halves. On the left, you have your main ideas, and on the right, you have your related and secondary ideas. Place the most important notes on the left-hand column, and develop or connect with similar ideas on the right.

Or you could have class notes on the left and your own thoughts or actions on the right. This also helps with organising your study time, as you will be able to see which topics or concepts require more thought or problem-solving.

Learning and typing assistance

If you have dyslexia, there are recommended fonts you can use for digital note-taking or writing on a laptop:

Arial Comic Sans
GenevaCentury Gothic

You can also get free specialist fonts that emphasise distinctions between similar shaped letters to make it easier to discern.


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