Feb 2, 2014
66
68
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
So this is my fifth semester, and I still haven't learned how to take or use notes yet... I can't even fully articulate what's making this so difficult for me.

It's not that I'm not trying. I read the textbook and take notes on that, then I take notes in lecture, and then I usually rewrite my notes a couple of times after class, trying to consolidate the textbook and lecture notes. My main problem, for some weird reason, is actually looking at the notes after I write them. I always get extremely overwhelmed or frustrated by something: my handwriting, the way the information is organized, the detail or lack thereof.

I'll try to reorganize things by date or concept, or type them up (though even with that, I'll spend hours to days messing around with fonts and formatting). It's all just really time-consuming, and I end up falling behind because I can't move past the same set of notes... Inevitably, I give up and never look at the notes I've already written.

I don't know if I'm just unusually and inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about my notes, or if this is happening because I don't know how to actually use the notes (I think if I learn anything at all, it happens during the process of taking notes). I'm good at working out problems, and I changed my major so that I would have more of that. But I know that I need to learn how to do this. Any advice?
 

GCS-15

2+ Year Member
Aug 4, 2015
412
232
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
This is what I do:
-before lecture: review the last lecture
-before lecture read the textbook for next lecture! That way I get a preview of the lecture and I make a list of the topics I'm having difficulty with. If after lecture, it's still not clear, then I talk to the prof: TA
-during lecture: 100% focus on the main idea of what prof is saying. I always think "what does this mean? How does this relate to last lecture". If I have any questions- I write them down immediately and ask them after class
-after lecture: podcast and re write the notes. This way- I get all the little details I didn't get the first time. But I don't re write word for word. I always put it in terms I can understand and put it in a way the make sense for me.
-during the weekend: I make a "summary sheet" for the lectures during the week. All the essential info consented onto one page.
Also, I use a whiteboard and draw. A lot. I like to write things out and ask a lot of questions.

I think the problem may be you're taking things for granted during the lecture. Like "ok yea glycolysis produces 2 net atp." But you really have to understand the facts and learn the reasoning behind them. Don't memorize details, look at concepts.

If you're still struggling- look for resources on campus/ reach out to the prof
 

GCS-15

2+ Year Member
Aug 4, 2015
412
232
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Instead of reading the notes over and over and over again, play around with the concepts. Also do practice problems!!
 
  • Like
Reactions: neekzg
About the Ads

Shirafune

5+ Year Member
Jan 2, 2014
946
733
Status
Medical Student
What I do for note-taking:
  • create headers/sections for each concept or group of concepts (i.e. regulation of nuclear import/export, vesicular trafficking, etc.)
  • use understandable short-hand notation like the sign for inhibition or the upper case delta symbol to denote change
  • condense sentences into definitions you know by heart - "B-catenin is phosphorylated by GSK3B, becoming a target for polyubiquitination and degradation by the proteasome" would become this "GSK3B is B-catenin kinase -> UPS degradation"
  • listen to the minutiae in lecture - this helps me understand the nuances of whatever the professor is talking about. I don't necessarily study these topics as they aren't high yield, but it helps solidify my learning in class.
  • rewriting notes only if necessary - if you are talking about very broad interconnected topics like systemic and tissue-specific glucose availability, then condense your notes into a flow chart with relevant organs (where and how is glucose stored? how is glucose imported specifically in different kinds of tissues? etc)
You need to be able to organize the professor's lecture while translating his/her verbal lecture into short-hand notation you can keep up with. If you miss something, make a note and ask a question later or go listen to the podcast. Focus on the logic and reasoning during lecture; memorizing the details, names, order and etc will all come much easier if you get the former part down.

My study plan for any science class is the same. Take good notes, re-read notes 3 - 4 times over the course of 1 - 2 days before the exam, and do any practice problems/exams provided.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Theafoni

ChrisMack390

2+ Year Member
Jan 15, 2015
3,379
4,513
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
I would try this: do what you are currently doing except go electronic! Take your book and lecture notes on paper, then transfer them into Word. The benefit is that you can include pictures and if you don't like how something is organized or aren't happy with the level of detail, you can easily change it. If you want to get more creative with the format than Word allows, try Powerpoint or Publisher or whatever you want.
 
Mar 8, 2015
972
1,307
Status
Medical Student
I almost never took notes, although some classes it was was necessary (ochem, other classes in which all the material was written on the board an nowhere else). If they had every lecture on PowerPoint slides I never even brought my backpack to class. I honestly felt like the people who furiously copied down the slides into their notebooks were the ones who were struggling the most and basically grasping for straws. It's all about figuring out what technique works best for you, not what it seems like everyone else is doing.

p.s. highlighting is a waste of time.
 

GCS-15

2+ Year Member
Aug 4, 2015
412
232
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
I also recommended studying in "passes". Like don't try to understand everything at once. When you review your notes the first time/ first pass- understand the logic and big pints. The next time you review, focus on the details and smaller points. That way- you're not overwhelmed and can study a little each day.
 

Lawper

Cat-box cycle
Gold Donor
5+ Year Member
SDN Ambassador
Jun 17, 2014
39,225
113,671
space chat
forums.studentdoctor.net
I almost never took notes, although some classes it was was necessary (ochem, other classes in which all the material was written on the board an nowhere else). If they had every lecture on PowerPoint slides I never even brought my backpack to class. I honestly felt like the people who furiously copied down the slides into their notebooks were the ones who were struggling the most and basically grasping for straws. It's all about figuring out what technique works best for you, not what it seems like everyone else is doing.

p.s. highlighting is a waste of time.
Yeah same. All i did was read the slides provided or read the book and do practice problems. Curiously, i did worse on exams whenever i took notes, so i ended that practice quickly.
 

Goro

Gold Donor
7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
54,460
80,858
Somewhere west of St. Louis
Status
Non-Student
Contact your school's learning or education center STAT!

So this is my fifth semester, and I still haven't learned how to take or use notes yet... I can't even fully articulate what's making this so difficult for me.

It's not that I'm not trying. I read the textbook and take notes on that, then I take notes in lecture, and then I usually rewrite my notes a couple of times after class, trying to consolidate the textbook and lecture notes. My main problem, for some weird reason, is actually looking at the notes after I write them. I always get extremely overwhelmed or frustrated by something: my handwriting, the way the information is organized, the detail or lack thereof.

I'll try to reorganize things by date or concept, or type them up (though even with that, I'll spend hours to days messing around with fonts and formatting). It's all just really time-consuming, and I end up falling behind because I can't move past the same set of notes... Inevitably, I give up and never look at the notes I've already written.

I don't know if I'm just unusually and inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about my notes, or if this is happening because I don't know how to actually use the notes (I think if I learn anything at all, it happens during the process of taking notes). I'm good at working out problems, and I changed my major so that I would have more of that. But I know that I need to learn how to do this. Any advice?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Annabell Lee

Cpt Ahab

2+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2015
520
655
an event horizon
Status
Pre-Medical
I use wrote memorization as a study technique. While it is arguably highly inefficient, once I write something down two or three times, it sticks like glue. I know I will have to adjust my study habits for medical school. But for now the technique has yet to fail me. Best of luck chuck. WE WISH YOU THE BEST.
 
  • Like
Reactions: StudyLater
OP
DrDre2017
Feb 2, 2014
66
68
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Thanks for the good ideas, guys! I like the idea of breaking tasks up and looking at concepts. I'll give it a shot. I've already worked with a "study consultant" at my school; a lot of the things that were suggested didn't really work out for me, but it was good having someone to be accountable to, so maybe I'll do it again.
 

Holmwood

WOW
2+ Year Member
Jul 20, 2014
1,800
1,546
So this is my fifth semester, and I still haven't learned how to take or use notes yet... I can't even fully articulate what's making this so difficult for me.

It's not that I'm not trying. I read the textbook and take notes on that, then I take notes in lecture, and then I usually rewrite my notes a couple of times after class, trying to consolidate the textbook and lecture notes. My main problem, for some weird reason, is actually looking at the notes after I write them. I always get extremely overwhelmed or frustrated by something: my handwriting, the way the information is organized, the detail or lack thereof.

I'll try to reorganize things by date or concept, or type them up (though even with that, I'll spend hours to days messing around with fonts and formatting). It's all just really time-consuming, and I end up falling behind because I can't move past the same set of notes... Inevitably, I give up and never look at the notes I've already written.

I don't know if I'm just unusually and inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about my notes, or if this is happening because I don't know how to actually use the notes (I think if I learn anything at all, it happens during the process of taking notes). I'm good at working out problems, and I changed my major so that I would have more of that. But I know that I need to learn how to do this. Any advice?
Your study method isn't conducive with your learning style.

With the amount of information being bombarded at you, it might be unreasonable to expect students to take note of everything in such a short amount of time.

To cover all of the material, I record lectures. When I'm re-reading notes, I have the lecture playing so I can follow through with my notes and not try so hard to recall what I meant by a certain cryptic short phrase or vocab. And of course I have the lecture playing at x2 speed for time constraint reasons.
This is important especially for those classes where lecture materials are more important than the book (because books tend to be outdated quickly, especially molecular stuff)... Plus it'll help you capture 100% of the information during morning classes when you phase in and out of consciousness.

Recording will only help you with concepts... There are some things you need to resort to rote memorization/flash cards (for things such as biochemical pathways) or practice problem solving (like P-chem, physics, gen chem, etc).
 

NotYou20

5+ Year Member
Dec 23, 2012
731
1,115
Status
Medical Student
I almost never took notes, although some classes it was was necessary (ochem, other classes in which all the material was written on the board an nowhere else). If they had every lecture on PowerPoint slides I never even brought my backpack to class. I honestly felt like the people who furiously copied down the slides into their notebooks were the ones who were struggling the most and basically grasping for straws. It's all about figuring out what technique works best for you, not what it seems like everyone else is doing.

p.s. highlighting is a waste of time.
I generally do the same. As long as the information can be found somewhere else, understanding what's being said rather than taking notes has worked well for me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CaliforniaDreamer

moisne

5+ Year Member
Jan 7, 2014
1,486
897
God I never rewrite notes... such a waste of time. I would've failed everything.

Write notes once (if any at all) go back and underline in color first time you review, annotate your notes, highlight your final pass
 

neekzg

7+ Year Member
Dec 30, 2010
477
305
Status
Medical Student
Are you sure that you learn best by taking notes?

Personally, I was also usually frustrated with the way I formatted my notes (like deciding what colors to use to most efficiently separate divisions) and initially spent too much time worrying about the "quality" of them.

The key thing to remember is that notes are supposed to AID and FACILITATE your learning. When I switched from trying to be perfect with my notes to simply writing random things down as a method of memorizing it or recalling a detail for later, I found my studying to be much less of a hassle. I had more time to just focus on absorbing the material itself. With the amount of time you're spending writing and re-writing your notes, you aren't using this study technique as it best fits your need. Don't let figuring out the best way to study/take notes interfere with the time that you can just spend directly studying and memorizing the material.
 
Dec 15, 2014
352
163
Ilex Forest
Status
Pre-Medical
Recently I started using neon/pastel paper. Its died different colors. I also bought those sticky tabs. And nice gel pens. And now I utilize all of this to write out my biochem notes.

Like every detail is manipulated and organized.

I also get bogged down with things like what my paper looks like, if the perforation is done right, will I be able to finish all of these stupid notes, how ugly my writing looks. But this has really been a remedy. I like the end product. Granted it takes me twice as long to sticky on notes and organize everything, but I do not forget. When I sit down for exam, I am going through my notes visually thinking how I organized the information and its all there.

My writing is also atrocious so manipulating and labeling words and categorizing really slows down my ugly writing and helps me digest things. Otherwise I get so frustrated how ugly the writing looks. I feel ya on this. Try doing this, it might not be a panacea but it might remedy this.
 

Spector1

Orbis non Sufficit
5+ Year Member
Jun 29, 2011
1,808
1,907
Status
Pre-Medical
I find that its the process of taking notes and writing rather than actually looking at my notes that helps me remember things. most of my notes are illegible shorthand
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ad2b
Apr 26, 2014
2
0
Status
Non-Student
I agree with @ChrisMack390 about going electronic. A while ago, making use of the Livescribe system to take/record notes would have been the best method, but now I would recommend using Microsoft OneNote in conjunction with one of the Surface Pro machines. You can carry it to class, take notes in class (typewritten OR handwritten on blank electronic pages OR electronically annotate PDF/Powerpoint handouts) as well as record the lectures, and play back the parts you didn't understand later. You can search it for text that's in embedded graphics as well as your handwritten notes. OneNote makes it very easy to organize/massage/augment your material, and is one of the only 2 reasons I stay loyal to Microsoft (the other being the Surface Pros). The camera is supposed to be not that great (may be harder to take photos of what's on the whiteboard from a distance, but I can't attest to that).

You can search Youtube for videos on how people use OneNote to organize school material. Just make sure to watch videos that talk about the same version of OneNote that you have/will have as they vary a bit in how their user interface looks (menu structure, etc.) It's very easy to learn, you can start with just the basic functions and then work your way to being a power user later. It will be useful from day 1.

No I don't work for Microsoft, or own Microsoft stock. Just a happy user. I organize my entire life with OneNote (and NOW I can find EVERYTHING easily!)

The Surface Pro 4's just came out (and apparently there are some kinks to be worked out) so the SP3's are going for a good price now, and those are working just fine.
 

mehc012

Big Damn Hero
7+ Year Member
Jul 9, 2012
9,329
8,365
The Black
Status
Medical Student
I never take notes, and it sounds like we have similar reasons...I can't help but get distracted by the formatting/organization/quality of the notes themselves, rather than the material.

So, I don't bother. I pay very good attention in class, I ask good questions, and when it comes time to review, I make sure that I have some form of active learning in there (answering questions, making Anki cards, etc). Good to go; notes are nice if they work for you, but they're not the be all end all of study techniques, so if they're not working...ditch them!
 

Turkishking

2+ Year Member
Jul 15, 2015
2,446
1,193
Status
Pre-Medical
So this is my fifth semester, and I still haven't learned how to take or use notes yet... I can't even fully articulate what's making this so difficult for me.

It's not that I'm not trying. I read the textbook and take notes on that, then I take notes in lecture, and then I usually rewrite my notes a couple of times after class, trying to consolidate the textbook and lecture notes. My main problem, for some weird reason, is actually looking at the notes after I write them. I always get extremely overwhelmed or frustrated by something: my handwriting, the way the information is organized, the detail or lack thereof.

I'll try to reorganize things by date or concept, or type them up (though even with that, I'll spend hours to days messing around with fonts and formatting). It's all just really time-consuming, and I end up falling behind because I can't move past the same set of notes... Inevitably, I give up and never look at the notes I've already written.

I don't know if I'm just unusually and inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about my notes, or if this is happening because I don't know how to actually use the notes (I think if I learn anything at all, it happens during the process of taking notes). I'm good at working out problems, and I changed my major so that I would have more of that. But I know that I need to learn how to do this. Any advice?
Not sure how helpful I can be, but I'll provide some insight. Most of the time my professor starts drawing arrows, and diagrams what not. It gets a little confusing so I don't bother with it. Instead I take down important information he mentions during lecture. I go home read the chapter, highlight, make my own notes, memorize. I do this over the course of a couple of weeks. I go online, and watch videos, and do some practice problems pertaining to the topic. I also do the questions at the end of the chapter. I do this almost daily in the library, or when I go home. Maybe my study methods aren't up to par either, but it seems like it's working.
 

idontknowwhatnametopick

2+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2015
1,241
1,318
Status
Medical Student
So this is my fifth semester, and I still haven't learned how to take or use notes yet... I can't even fully articulate what's making this so difficult for me.

It's not that I'm not trying. I read the textbook and take notes on that, then I take notes in lecture, and then I usually rewrite my notes a couple of times after class, trying to consolidate the textbook and lecture notes. My main problem, for some weird reason, is actually looking at the notes after I write them. I always get extremely overwhelmed or frustrated by something: my handwriting, the way the information is organized, the detail or lack thereof.

I'll try to reorganize things by date or concept, or type them up (though even with that, I'll spend hours to days messing around with fonts and formatting). It's all just really time-consuming, and I end up falling behind because I can't move past the same set of notes... Inevitably, I give up and never look at the notes I've already written.

I don't know if I'm just unusually and inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about my notes, or if this is happening because I don't know how to actually use the notes (I think if I learn anything at all, it happens during the process of taking notes). I'm good at working out problems, and I changed my major so that I would have more of that. But I know that I need to learn how to do this. Any advice?
I used to have that exact problem.
Then I completely changed the way I studied.

For undergrad, I never read the textbook or did anything to prepare for classes. I came to class with my computer and the PowerPoint loaded on it, and took notes directly on the slides (because printing would be a waste of paper and ink).
After class I would look through the PowerPoint and use ONE sheet of paper to write down important information on. Key word here is "important," copying everything is useless.
And then before exams I'd just read that one page per lecture and be ready.
If the class offers old exams, practice problems, etc, I always made sure to go through all that material.

If paper notes don't work for you, stop trying to rewrite notes and make them pretty etc. It's useless. I understand the appeal, but really the prettiest my notes are, the more likely I am to never look at them again.
 

wholeheartedly

Staff member
Administrator
10+ Year Member
Aug 8, 2009
5,511
3,543
Beyond the Wall
The biggest issue I've seen is people taking notes in lecture trying to transcribe almost everything which defeats the purpose of notes. They're so focused on getting everything down that they don't really register the info on a deeper level. Try to listen and focus on understanding what's being said, just briefly jotting down key points, same with textbooks. Methods for format and review will differ by individuals, but visiting a learning or tutoring center can show you different options to play around with and it might vary by class calc vs. biochem vs. psychology.

For undergrad, I prefered handwriting my notes because I feel like I focus better. I switched to a format suggested by the learning center where I drew a verticle line down the notebook page one third of the way over from the left side. Left side was topic, term, or key word and right side is the definition, brief description, diagram, or other note. The idea being that you can review by folding over the right side and use the left side topic as your prompt. I review best when I try to explain a topic either to myself or a study partner, and it can be verbally or drawing on my dry erase board. So I'll look at my topic or key word then write the explanation on my dry erase board. Then see if it matches the info in my note. If I've got it, great, done. If not, I keep a condensed one to two page summary sheet of difficult things or memorization things to review on further passes.

It's nice to have digital copies of things, so since I handwrite my notes I scan them to my computer using my document scanner. It's pretty fast and I have my notes on the go then.
 
About the Ads