During finals week, time and time again I hear things like “you have such nice handwriting,” and “so much lecture information on so few pages,” and I am always very thankful that over a decade ago, my German teacher (props to Frau Bahr) told me that I’d learn best if I rewrote my notes for every class, condensed them as small as I could and then studied from that. For ten years now I’ve been doing just that; spending an hour longer than “normal” re-organizing and re-writing my notes for each class lecture that I attend. It may sound like a lot of “extra work,” but this re-writing process has been proven to help students cement the information they’ve just been given.
- without re-writing notes, students may forget vital pieces of information as well as what abbreviations and other marks mean
- re-writing your notes helps you memorize and understand the information you copied during the lecture, the best way to memorize a lot of information is in small pieces over a long period of time
- if you have questions about things you’ve heard in lecture, re-writing your notes may either help you understand what they were, or point them out clearer, encouraging you to ask about them during the next lecture
- while you are re-writing your notes, you are also able to re-organize them, put them in a format that works best for your learning style; visual learners can add color-coding and diagrams, auditory learners should read the notes aloud a few times, and kinesthetic learners (me!) learn by re-writing notes into outline formats
- a note on outline formats: each main point should be on its own line, details for the point should be indented to the right. A fantastic way to either learn or set up an outline is to use a word-processing program’s “bullets & numbering” feature; hard returns and indentations create the next appropriate character for outlines
- oftentimes, professors speak too quickly for a student to get all the notes written out; by re-writing your notes, you are able to fill in those blanks that you may have had to leave during lecture. The details are still fresh in your mind and you will be able to clarify them sooner. All of the abbreviations that you create during class should be spelled out and explained while re-writing your notes.
- re-writing your notes prepares you for your next class, reminding you of what you were to learn in previous lectures and cementing the foundations
- one thing I’ve found particularly helpful in many classes is writing out a short “summary” of the lecture at the end of each set of daily notes. Then, when I go back to study for the exam, I am able to paste all of these summaries together and read a page-long essay about what I was supposed to learn. Another option is to rewrite my essay I got from notes into a solid piece I can use for getting some extra points.
It helps best if a student can re-organize and re-copy their notes within 24 hours of the lecture, but if that cannot be done, then at least do it before the final few lectures, just in case you have any leftover questions or misunderstandings. Research shows that 80% of new material can be recalled if you review your notes within one day of presentation.
Want to bring those test grades up? Want to impress your classmates with your typed study guides? Re-write those notes daily and cement things sooner rather than later!