Column: What is the best way to take notes and become a more effective student?

How do you take notes – do you look for your laptop or grab a pen and paper? 

When it comes to most exams, class lectures contain the most content. As students enter the classroom, a wide variety of laptops sit on desks along with spiral-ruled notebooks and Pilot G2 pens ready to write down everything the professor at the front of the room has to say.

But let’s answer the real question. Which is more academically effective: written notes or typed notes? 

According to a study done by the Association for Psychological Science, people who take notes on a laptop are more likely to type verbatim what the professor says, which makes the student’s conceptual learning more difficult. 

When students try to type every word that the professor says, they usually don’t process the information in their own words, putting them at a disadvantage for retaining the information long term. 

In the same study, researchers showed that people who take hand-written notes process the information better because they have to be more selective on what is written down. As proven through the study, the people who took hand-written notes performed better on the test following the lecture. 

Although hand-written notes will not guarantee better test scores, studies show that students have a better chance for success when you bring out the notebook and pen.

When you take notes on a laptop you can write down more information. Writing on a laptop allows students to go back through and reread the lecture, whereas hand-written notes don’t always guarantee this. However, when students have to be selective on what they write down on paper, they have a head start on processing the information before the study sessions begin. 

Kelvin Yos | Liberty Champion
NOTE TAKING– Students have their own preferences on how to take notes for class.

But what happens when a professor does not allow the use of computers in the classroom? Or what do you do if you only like taking notes with pen and paper but the professor goes through the slides too quickly for you? 

Immediately you are faced with a challenge. 

My tip to you – always be adaptable to different classroom rules. Many professors prefer that laptops be left at the door so students do not get distracted by emails, online shopping and gaming. If this is your professor, be prepared for class and bring a spiraled notebook. Be willing to adjust — if you spend too much time getting frustrated that you can’t take notes the way you want to, you will miss several slides. 

College is known to push people outside their comfort zone. Whether it be through note taking in the classroom or studying outside the classroom, be prepared to go outside your normal routine to get that degree. 

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