The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Note taking: getting the most from class lectures

By Mike Eldridge/reporter

A South Campus counselor helped struggling students take better notes and keep better focus in the classroom.

Steve Rakoff said one of the many struggles for students today is understanding the lectures presented to them by their instructors.

In his Sept. 15 presentation Effective Note Taking: Getting the Most Out of What the Instructor Says, Rakoff offered tips and tricks for students to overcome their struggle with taking notes and getting the information instructors expect them to know for exams.

“Understand a little bit of each lecture instead of trying to understand it all at once,” he said.

Students need to be prepared going into their class by what Rakoff called skimming over the reading being discussed in the upcoming class.

“It will prepare your mind for what you will hear and create a folder system in your brain preparing you to comprehend the instructor,” he said. 

Rakoff gave tips to be more effective in collecting information and at the same time remembering the information. He said students should write on only one side of the page to provide a clearer study period so they are not trying to shuffle through pages.

Also, instead of using a spiral, Rakoff said students should use a three-ring binder for organization so they can take pages in and out easily and not lose them.

When writing notes, Rakoff said students should leave white space on the page so it is not cluttered with tons of information that makes it hard to read.

“Use proper spacing in between subjects so that you can easily make out the key points and differentiate between them,” he said.

Rakoff offered a tool for those struggling with compiling their notes. He said students should find a way most comfortable for them to use.

Among his suggestions were using abbreviations or symbols to replace words.

“This will help you comprehend what you are hearing as you will process each thought as you write it down,” he said.

Rakoff also suggested using the Cornell Note-taking System, which sets up a two-inch left margin and six-inch right margin for space to follow up while learning.

As students take notes, they write all the information they hear on the right side of the paper. After class, they can fill in main points and ideas on the left side.

“This will give you the best opportunity to absorb what is taught,” he said.

The Cornell system offers what is called the “Five R’s” of note taking: record, reduce, recite, reflect and review. Each of these steps gives students a chance to know the lecture and recall it on exams.

Rakoff said the most important part of note taking is the review of what was taken during the class.

“Within the first hour, you lose about 60 percent of what you hear,” he said.

The best way to comprehend notes is reviewing them after class and making sure they are understood.

Rakoff suggested scheduling 30 minutes to an hour between classes to look over previous notes each day. Doing this will help the memory greatly and leave students better prepared for tests on the subject, he said.

”As long as you are calm, prepared for class and use the tools at your disposal, you can turn your note-taking frustrations into positives and improve your note-taking habits,” he said.

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