C-Suite AdvisoryExecutive Education

Make Effective Learning Notes Using these 6 Tips

Two people taking notes

The art of making notes cannot be mastered in a day. You have to take baby steps, learn from your mistakes, improve upon them, and re-do them. Once you have managed to have command of the art, then there is nothing that can stop you from creating resourceful study material for yourself. But, the question is, how. That is where I come and will guide you. All I expect from you is that you stay with me and read this piece in its entirety.

Before we begin, I’d like to point out that the tips I am going to mention here are general in nature, and their efficacy varies. That being said, these tips are fundamental to a good studying strategy and can be easily tailored as per one’s subjective parameters. Whatever those parameters may be it is advised that you start with these fundamentals.

Without further ado, let us find out what those 5 tips are to make effective learning notes.

  1. Focus on keywords
    I have seen many students write every word and sentence spoken by the instructor. You really don’t have to do that. You must learn to filter out the unnecessary details and only focus on keywords. It is important to remember that you didn’t score because you wrote each and every word spoken in the class; you scored because you focused on the primary keywords of the discussion. If you paid attention to the lecture, you will recall the same from the keyword. The problem with writing everything in the notebook is that you are simply not listening; your mind is focused on finishing the notes.

  1. Tabulate information
    I learned the wonderfulness of this method when I was participating in a moot court competition back in 2017. My teammates were preparing notes on case laws about Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) when a senior teammate asked me to tabulate all of them in a Word file. It is not that I had never made tabulated data; it is just that I always took it for granted and did not do it for greater lengths of time. Back then, however, I spent hours tabulating the data. My senior made me refer to his notes which were organized in a table, and I realized how easy it becomes to access and retrieve information in a tabular form. Trust me on this, tabulation helps in organizing information under categories, consolidates information in one place, and saves time.

  1. Outline Important Piece of Information
    Sometimes you end up writing too much requiring a re-write of the information. When you are rewriting the notes, make sure that you have underlined or marked in color the important points. This exercise helps in two ways: firstly, it directs the attention of the reader to the most relevant parts of the text; secondly, the exercise of marking keywords helps in memorization as the mind retrieves highlighted parts more readily. I am not asking you to underline everything there is on paper; know what needs to be highlighted.

  1. Write in legible handwriting
    You might think that this is common sense but that is not the case. A lot of times students fail to retrieve information from their notes because of poor handwriting. When I say you need good handwriting, I don’t expect you to have the best handwriting there is. Just the kind that is legible. The more effort the mind puts to access and store information from a source, the more difficult it becomes to remember the information. Make it easier for your brain to access information and that can only happen if and when you write legibly.

  1. Use diagrams and flow charts
    The art of condensing information is not a cakewalk. You must know how to process information and make it presentable. Many times you can do that with the help of diagrams and flow charts. Personally speaking, this technique does wonder. There is no point in note-making if you fail to gather data from and retain it. The mind needs an easy route to memory, and diagrammatic representation really does the work. Process the lecture, reduce it into a flow chart, and you are done. I bet you will learn faster from it.

Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller is CEOWORLD magazine's executive editor of news, writing analysis, and long-form reporting. In his role, he coordinates and tracks the publication of special packages, magazine stories, and the publication’s signature lists. He's a somewhat long-suffering supporter of Manchester United F.C. and a genuinely long-suffering fan of the Los Angeles Clippers.