It is important to remember that to take good notes you have to take a subject and boil it down to its key points. Unfortunately, boiling a subject down to its key points is not always a simple task because some subjects have a lot of important information, while other subjects have a lot of fluff. This means that, for you to take good notes, you have to be able to distinguish the important information from the information that really doesn’t matter at all. This, of course, can be difficult, but there are several different ways that you can make it easier to find the key points in a lecture.
- The first way that you can make it easier is to listen for verbal cues. Verbal cues are usually words or phrases that might signify that your teacher or professor is about to discuss something that you need to know. For example, if your professor says, “This can occur as a result of,” “this is important,” “this will be on the test,” “the best way to do this is,” “to do that, you have to do this,” “the reason for this is,” “you should remember that,” or any other similar phrase, you should take notes on the information that your professor is presenting. In fact, if your professor uses the words advantage, best, disadvantage, due, effective, important, largest, major reason, remember, result, type, or any other similar word, the information is probably not only important, but also probably going to be on your next test. It is important to note, however, that some of your professor’s verbal cues may not be as apparent, and you may want to listen for changes in your professor’s tone or for concepts that your professor is explaining more slowly in addition to the typical verbal cues that you may encounter.
- The second way that you can make it easier is to listen for concepts that appeared in your homework. This is because the concepts that you learned in your previous night’s homework are typically important, and the concepts that are covered in both your class and your homework are extremely important. In fact, if your homework required you to read a handout or read a section of your textbook, you can typically expect some of the major concepts that were covered on the handout or in the section to appear in your next lecture (especially when you encounter concepts that are underlined, italicized, in bold type, or in the chapter summary of your textbook).