What’s the best way to take notes?

Are you a writer or a typer?

Starting a new degree with Auckland Institute of Studies may bring back those exciting moments from your school days. Going to a store and picking up new pens, highlighters and notebooks may be something that gets you really pumped for the start of the semester.

Other people may browse technology shops, looking for a new laptop or tablet to accompany their studies. However, while a laptop may be much easier to type on, is it the best note-taking option for you?

Quicker doesn't mean better

AIS is a school to many international students, with English as a second (or possibly third or fourth!) language. While living in New Zealand will help to boost those English speaking skills much more, it can be difficult to keep up with your lecturer armed only with a pen and paper.

A laptop is typically faster, provided that typing isn't a new skill. But while you can take more notes via a digital platform, does it mean you learn as much?

Many times, it's likely that typing will become a monotonous task, where your brain won't think about what the lecturer is saying. You'll be focussed on getting down as many words as you can, exactly as the lecturer has said it.

What does your brain think about when taking notes?What does your brain think about when taking notes?

Your brain is the best tool

Writing is a more active skill and while slower, it requires the brain to filter out the relevant parts of the lecture. As such, you are likely to remember more at the end of the day. In fact, science says the same thing.

Students that took "longhand notes" performed better in tests.

Published in the journal, Psychological Science, students from the University of California were evaluated. Results revealed that those who took "longhand notes" performed better in tests, as opposed to students that typed. The researchers found, interestingly enough, that despite telling typists not to copy lecturers word for word, it almost always eventually happened, proving that with typing, the brain was more accustomed to following and not thinking.

Find what's best for you

Of course, everyone learns differently. And despite what you choose to take notes on, one thing is for sure – your best bet to retain crucial information is by repetition, or in other words, study.

Reiterating your notes into a condensed form can also help you break down key concepts, and create an exam 'cheat sheet'. Not to use to cheat, but rather, to quickly revise information before your exams. With graphs and charts, you may find it's better to handwrite (or draw), as many people find using vibrant colours and pictures can help to retain information better. It'll take some practise to get into the rhythm of which note-taking tactics work for you.

Need more help with your approach to note-taking? Contact our support team for more information.