Homework & Studying

Notes on Taking Notes

Your grades depend on taking in what’s taught — so depend on these tips for writing down the important stuff, organizing it, and remembering it for the test.

Good note-taking habits for school students with ADHD.
Good note-taking habits for school students with ADHD.

Taking notes should be more than writing down information as a teacher is lecturing. A student needs to pay attention and try to understand what the teacher is teaching. He should be able to distinguish the big picture from insignificant details. A student should admit it when the lecture material is going over his head and ask for clarification. Here are my ADHD-friendly tips for taking notes in class:

Date every page of your notes. It will help you determine which information will be on specific tests and quizzes. It keeps your notes in order, in the event that your binder pops open.

Fold the left one-third of your notebook paper. Write notes on the right two-thirds of the page and create summary questions on the left side. Don’t write more than five questions per page.

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Why do this? Turning your notes into questions helps you take in information at a higher level and remember it. The questions on the left fold become a study guide.

Write down notes whenever your teacher says, “this will be on the test” (put an asterisk next to it), “This is an important point,” or “This is not in your textbook, but it is important”; repeats information twice; slows down as she speaks to give you time to write; uses exaggerated hand gestures; or explains the same concept in several different ways.

Keep the back pages of the notebook paper open for adding additional information, or drawing charts, pictures, or symbols. When possible, it’s a good idea to draw as you take notes.

If you miss something, leave a blank space as a place holder and clarify later.

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Keep it short. Write down as little as possible, paraphrasing the teacher’s words when you can. Use the same abbreviations you would use for texting, and create a few more of your own. Remember, your notes have to make sense only to you.

Use as much space as you need to create clear notes. Notes are easier to read and study when information is not crammed on each page. Allot some space to add additional information or to amend notes. Don’t be stingy with the paper when you are taking notes — there are better ways to save trees.

Mining Your Notes for Gold

Taking good notes is not enough. You also need to know how to use your notes to excel on tests and quizzes:

Review all new notes within 24 hours of class. Then go back and briefly review all notes taken since the last test for each class.

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Record any information or visuals you remember from class, but did not have time to write down. Highlight items that you do not understand. Ask your teacher about these items in class the next day.

Review your notes by reading them out loud. When you read silently, your brain only processes information through your eyes. When you read notes out loud, your brain processes information through your eyes (reading), your mouth (speaking), and your ears (hearing). This increases your brain’s ability to recall information on tests.

Use additional formats for note taking. Concept maps and graphic organizers are great for learning science or social studies vocabulary. Start out by writing down the central idea in the middle of the page and branch out with subthemes from there. Concept maps allow you to assemble and see a lot of information at a glance.