Tips to Take Better Notes: The 5 R’s

How you write down study notes hugely affects how well you learn. With the amount of information you learn at school every day, it’s important to have a note-taking method that works best for you. 

A good note-taking method should help you process, remember, and recall most information you encounter at school lectures and seminars. To a large extent, it’s a personal thing and it differs from one student to another. 

To help you sharpen your note-taking skills, we’ll introduce you to the “5 Rs,” best described as the essentials of a good note-taking technique. 

Learn more about it below!

How you write down study notes hugely affects how well you learn. With the amount of information you learn at school every day, it’s important to have a note-taking method that works best for you. 

A good note-taking method should help you process, remember, and recall most information you encounter at school lectures and seminars. To a large extent, it’s a personal thing and it differs from one student to another. 

To help you sharpen your note-taking skills, we’ll introduce you to the “5 Rs,” best described as the essentials of a good note-taking technique. 

Learn more about it below!

Record

Essentially, to record means to take note of the key information you learn throughout a lecture. It’s the most common note-taking method as you need to document your notes somewhere. 

Whether you’re sitting in a lecture hall or attending a Zoom class, you need to have a notebook where you can write all the key points that you hear. 

Writing too much information can sometimes make it more difficult to review what you’ve written, so you must know how to dissect information and write down only what’s necessary. 

One of the best note-taking tips we could give is to use bullet points as much as possible. Not only do they help you organise your thoughts more coherently, they make for easier scanning later on as well. 

When moving on to a new point, use bold headings so you can keep track of what you’re writing. 

Finally, readability is most students’ problem when looking back at their notes. Resolving this could be as easy as leaving as much white space as possible!

Reduce

After writing your notes, you’ll have to make a summary of the lecture in your own words. 

Summarising helps you to clarify the meaning and relationships of ideas, strengthen memory retention, and prepare for tests in advance. It’s the most effective way to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. 

It’s best to summarise everything right after you’ve learned it, probably upon getting home, because all the ideas are still fresh in your mind. There’s a high chance that you’ll forget some key points if you put it off for days. 

Another effective way to condense your notes is by making a list of essential questions which you can use later on as review materials. Their purpose is to make sure you understand the general argument, so focus on the main ideas instead of the specific details.

Recite

To know if you truly understand your notes, you must be able to recite all the necessary information in as much detail as possible. Better if in your own words and without looking at your notes!

Recitation involves explaining everything you’ve learned by speaking out, as though you are presenting to a group of people. This approach helps in information processing and encourages you to spot knowledge gaps, so you can't pretend to know something that you actually don't.

If you have trouble explaining, it only means that you don't comprehend the topic well enough and that you need to dig deeper into your notes. 

Recitation is significantly more effective than just passive reading, which most students are guilty of. It helps transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory quickly.

Reflect

Reflecting is concurrently done with reciting to help you process and retain information more effectively. 

As you read your notes, think about your own opinions and ideas and find a way to connect them to your current knowledge and experiences. Sometimes, the secret to understanding a topic is by finding common ground with what you already know. 

When reflecting, raise yourself questions, and then try to answer them creatively. Write original ideas in your notebook and use them when answering exam questions, writing papers, and participating in discussions.

Review

Everything you feed to your brain comes with an expiry date, and we’ll quickly forget the information if you don’t make an effort to revisit them. 

No matter how well you think you know the material, take the time to review everything and skim over the key points and concepts. It’s the most reliable way to avoid information decay. 

Regular reviewing of your notes is far better than cramming everything the night before a major test. Plus, it better encodes information into your long-term memory even as you encounter and process new information.

Improve your note-taking skills with Aspire Hub

Learning begins with taking lecture notes effectively. Incorporating the 5 Rs into your note-taking techniques can help you write and review notes more efficiently, especially now as we enter a new semester. 

At Aspire Hub, we have tutors who can not only take you through academic topics but guide you through proper note-taking as well.

Explore our programmes now to see if any of them can help you prepare for the new term.