Note-Taking Tips + Notebook Apps to Help You Ace Your Online Classes

By: Neda Ahmed

You know these aesthetically-pleasing digital notes? The ones with the pastel colours and make studying super tempting? Yes, the ones no one can exactly take- we got you! Since schools are taking a new technological approach, we thought we’d make a list of good note-taking apps and tips to carry the process effectively and efficiently.

There are many different ways to take notes, and your choice largely depends on the subject you’re studying and the way your mind works. For instance, your Sociology notes can’t look like your Maths notes but are more like your English notes. Then, your friend’s Sociology notes aren’t like your Sociology notes as (chances are) your minds work differently. You may like making bullet points while your friend takes the question approach.

Tip 1: Find out your ultimate note-taking style.

  • Mind-mapping

Have your main topic be centric and start making branches and sub-branches of elaboration and whatnot. This works quite well with humanities and sciences.

  • The Question Approach

Throughout your lecture, write down all the questions that jumped to your mind. When you get home, start answering them in a structured manner using your slides/textbook as your guide. This style is very helpful when doing final reviews as it highlights the parts that make question marks pop. Works very well with humanities, not always effective with sciences.

  • The Bullet Point Approach

As you probably figured it out, you write bullet points and sub-bullet points of the subject at hand. It’s a very organised method (especially if you use subheadings) and is very easy navigated. Works good with languages, humanities and sciences.

  • Example Approach

It’s tricky to take notes for a maths-oriented course as explaining the mechanism of mathematical problems is far too exhausting and not very efficient and beneficial. It’s better to write down the problems and a step-by-step practical guide to solving it. This doesn’t work very well with sciences and humanities, but it may work with languages, maths and maths-oriented topics.

There are many other styles, and this is where you come in. YouTube study-videos give you new ideas of styling your notes in a way that may suit your mindset. It’s needless to say that you can mix-and-match between styles all you want; you don’t have to stick to something forever. As you progress academically, your style will as well.

Click here, here, here and here to watch videos which discuss the different note-taking systems.

Tip 2: Rewrite them and make them pretty.

Taking notes while the lecture is on is an extreme sport, and your notes probably come out as messy and unorganised. I bet they’re not even very inviting when it’s time to hit the books. Buy 2 notebooks/2 subject notebook, one in which you’ll write down notes during your class and the other in which you’ll clean-copy them in another notebook. This is an effective way for many to study their material, know the relevant info and drop the irrelevant ones and make their notes pretty. Beautifying your notes sounds like a task of little importance, but looking at organised and clear notes must be better than looking at messy ones!

Your handwriting mustn’t be cursive and you don’t have to have tonnes of pastel-coloured pens that cost over a thousand pounds…your classic ballpoint blue pen will do just fine.

Tip 3: Not everything is relevant.

The stress of having to write everything down will do you more harm than good. Look through your textbook questions/exam questions; these questions highlight the relevant info and make your studying experience less crammed.

Tip 4: Organise your notes.

Let’s say we’re doing Transport in Animals; don’t explain the anatomy of the heart, start stating the types and structures of blood vessels then go back to the anatomy of the heart. This is very confusing. Use subheadings, put the related parts together, use squares to separate topics. This is why, again, it’s recommended to clean-copy your notes when you get home-it’s easier to organise them this way.

Since schools are taking a rather digital approach this year (finally), a lot of us have updates to digital means of note-taking. Whether you use a tablet, an iPad, a laptop or a Macbook, this list of good note-taking applications is for you.

  • Goodnotes 5
  • OneNote
  • Notability
  • Evernote
  • Default phone notes
  • Microsoft Word
  • Roam Research
  • Standard Notes
  • Ulysses
  • Bear
  • Google Docs

Click here, here and here to watch comparisons between the different apps and become familiar with digital note-taking.

Some of these are paid, some are free, some are more organised than others-and the list goes on. These are very diverse applications but all worth the investment. Research your application of choice and watch reviews before downloading/making a purchase to be sure of the accuracy of your decision. Happy new academic year, everyone!

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