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We often associate note taking with bad memories of sitting in class or at a lecture. But although it was often difficult for us to take them down, we were grateful for them when a difficult exam came (not without reason there are so many posts asking for them in student groups). Note-taking has been one of the most effective “learning assistants” for years, also when learning a language. That’s why we are dedicating today’s SuperTip to it!

Why is it worth taking notes?

Because taking notes helps us organize our thoughts and focus on the topic we are studying. Our mind has to pick up important information to write down, so it’s harder for it to drift off and get distracted. Well-taken notes will also form our own knowledge base, which will then become excellent revision material, with the most important information at your fingertips. Note-taking should support our memorization process and make us learn faster.

Write by hand or on a computer?

Many studies show that taking handwritten notes is more engaging and stimulating for our brain than typing – we could mention, for example, one carried out by two neuropsychologists Audrey van der Meer and Ruud van der Weel. Writing with a pen or pencil requires more complex movements than with the keyboard, and therefore activates more areas of the brain. However, taking notes on a computer or laptop has one undeniable advantage – it is simply faster. So, ultimately the choice is yours – building your knowledge base in Word or Google Docs is better than not doing it at all.

How to take notes – the methods

There are many methods for efficient note-taking, but it is worth paying attention to the mind map, Cornell method and bullet journal, as they are recommended by many specialists.

A simplified bullet journal simply means creating lists. It is useful, for example, if you want to have all your vocabulary in one place. We can add any headings, margins, and more creative elements to the lists, for example boxes, which we check off when we fully remember a word.

A mind map will help you create logical structures between different pieces of information, say, for comprehensive vocabulary learning. It is created according to the principle “from the general to the particular” – the center of the map is the main topic, and the next legs and branches contain all the information that pertains to it. Each mind map sequence should be arranged in a logical sequence (say, house vocabulary – bedroom – bedside table – pronunciation of the word “bedside table” – example with the word “bedside table”).

Cornell’s method helps us organize and systematize broad, complex topics, such as grammar constructions. On a sheet of paper, we create a table with a space for the title (top), left and right columns and free space at the bottom. At the top, we write the title – to remind us what the notes are about. The right column is where you want to put your notes, so it should be wider. In the left column, we write down words and equivalents summarizing the information on the right. At the bottom we present conclusions and summaries for the whole thing.