Reviewing Your Notes

Another note-taking "best practice" is to review your notes as soon as possible.

  1. Review within twenty-four hours after a lecture or your retention will drop sharply.
  2. Should you recopy your notes? Some people benefit from rewriting or recopying their lecture notes. However, be sure to allow time to think about your notes. Experiment and find out what works best for you. Copying without thinking about (or revising) notes does not necessarily aid retention. Manipulating the material by reorganizing and putting it into your own words, however, does lead to better retention.
  3. Use margin space to fill in abbreviations, add omitted points, correct errors, and write key words. Read notes to be sure you can clarify confusing or illegible material.
  4. Fill in further facts and examples while the lecture is still fresh in your mind.
  5. Clear up misunderstandings and fill in missing information by consulting the lecturer, classmates, the text(s), or other reference materials.
  6. As you read your notes, underline, highlight, or mark main points or important points you will want to give special attention to when you study the material again for the exam.
  7. Elaborate on your notes. Compare the information to what you already know. Write additional information from the text into notes.
  8. Connect concepts to see the "big picture"—think of a summary in your head or write it at the end of your notes.
  9. Practice reciting the information using only key words.
  10. Talk with other students about the lecture.
  11. Conduct short weekly review periods. Once a week, go through all your notes again. Put reviews on your calendar and make it a habit.


Student Dialog - Reviewing Notes

Brian, Heather, and Deena talking in a dorm room. Brian: So, let's see - we have covered what to do to prepare for a lecture and what to do during the lecture.

Heather: Now that we have our notes, the question is: Are we finished?

Deena: I hope so! Just kidding.

Brian: Deena, what do you think we should do next?

Deena: I'm not sure what you mean. Do you want to conclude your presentation?

Brian: Good to see you are asking for clarification. What I meant to ask was, what should we do with the notes after we have taken them?

Deena: Okay. I think you should review the notes.

Heather: Brian, how long would you wait before reviewing your notes?

Brian: Oh, until just before an exam.

Heather: Deena, how long would you wait?

Deena: It depends on how busy I am. I like to review them as soon as possible. That way I remember them better.

Brian: Deena, what do you do when you review?

Deena: I like to fill in facts, figures, and examples while the lecture is still fresh in my mind. I also like to clear up misunderstandings and fill in missing information.

Brian: Hmmm. It sounds like there may be more to that statement than meets the eye.

Deena: So, why is it important to review your notes so soon after a lecture? I sometimes want to get as far away from them as possible.

Heather: Unless you review within twenty-four hours, or at least before the next lecture, you will be relearning the material instead of reviewing.

Brian: In other words, the sooner you review, the better your retention.

Deena: Sometimes I copy notes that same evening because I write fast and can't always read my notes.

Brian: That's okay, Deena. There is a better way than just recopying notes. If you reorganize and put them into your own words, you'll retain the information longer and be able to recall it easier.

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