Most higher education classes are based solely on lectures and exams. If you aren’t a good note taker, then your chances of success are extremely hindered. These helpful tips can mean the difference between an A and a B in classes.

Words Not Sentences

Basing your notes on key words rather than writing a verbatim copy of the lecture will be much easier and more efficient. It is extremely difficult to hand write or even type exactly what the professors are saying, so students are better suited jotting down phrases or words that seem important. The factual evidence that your professor provides can always be researched after class for more details. For example, while listening to a historical lecture on the major writers of the Renaissance, you should put down names and the title of their works. If you think the works are going to be on an exam or necessary for a paper, you can easily look them up when you have more time after.

Make Your Own Abbreviations

Abbreviating words and phrases will save you an immense amount of time while taking notes. Cutting down basic words such as (with to w/ or and to &) will save time in writing and slow the inevitable hand cramps. If you are repeatedly referring to a person or an event, you should create abbreviations. Instead of rewriting George Washington seventeen times, you can write it once or twice then continue with GW for the rest of your notes. The titles of books can also take up a lot of time and space to write. Abbreviating One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to CN replaces six whole words.

 Reword Lectures

Simply duplicating your teacher’s lesson plan for the day won’t give you the knowledge you need. The best way to fully understand the material is to rewrite it in a way that makes it simple to read and understand by the average person. Your professors may make their explanations extremely detailed and long winded to prove their expertise on the subject. Their sentences may be four times what they expect on the exams, so some of what they talk about doesn’t necessarily need to be in your notes. Shortening the sentences so it more suited to your level of writing will make it easier to study and memorize for tests or exams later on.

Organization Matters

Cramming all your notes onto one piece of paper in tiny writing is not going to help you out later on. You should always have some spacing in your notes. Every new subject you could skip a line and put the new title as an underlined header. It will run smoother and your brain won’t automatically be overwhelmed when you start reviewing. It is also helpful to have different notebooks for each subject. If you use the same five-subject spiral for all five classes, space will become an issue and loose papers are definitely going to begin falling out. Having an organized folder and notebook for each class will make it less stressful to find what you are looking for and lessen clutter.

 Visual Stimulants

For those who are more visual learners, diagrams can be a huge help while taking notes. Write the name of a military general in a box and connect all the battles he won by separate lines. It will be pleasing to the eye and informative. It may help you remember later on because you can picture the diagram rather than just a line of words. Color-coding is another great way to stay organized and it makes the writing seem much more interesting. You should try and get a different colored pen for each class; red for Biology, green for History, blue for Calculus. For a guy who doesn’t want to walk around with a pink pen, switch from pencil to pen and back again. Giving your eyes a break from staring at the same dull grey or black will make you more awake and excited to write.

 Small things can make a huge difference in taking notes. In classes where most of your grade is based on how well you retain information, every little thing can help.