5 Listening and Note taking Skills that Work

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Posted 16 Aug 2007 in Back to School

Back to schoolAfter spending 4 years in undergrad and 2 in graduate school, I have had to learn, sometimes the hard way, how to listen and take notes well.

These are tips that I also have passed on to my students this past year as I taught American Government.

The following 5 tips work, no matter what subject matter you are studying.

1. Go to class! There is nothing like going to class. Getting notes from your friend, listening to a podcast of the lecture after the fact, etc. just do not substitute for the real thing.

2. Read before and after class. It always seems as if your professors are out to destroy your life with a lot of reading, but, it can be the difference between an A and a B in many classes. First read the introduction then the summary of the assigned chapter. If there are study questions, read them and store them for later. Read the chapter through quickly (skim) and identify the ‘major’ topics or ideas. Afterward, re-read the chapter in depth to ensure your understanding of the chapter.

3. Listen and concentrate in class. Honestly, you cannot pay attention to the lecture and surf Facebook at the same time. I’ve tried it. And all I got was some really bad grades. Sit near the front of the room and in the lecturer’s line of vision. When you go back to read your notes and text after class, you can actually visualize the lecturer and sometimes add more detail to your notes.

4. Take good notes. The Cornell Note taking Method is a great way to take notes and keep your thoughts and questions organized. Divide the page into three sections – a narrow column on the left for cues or questions, a large area for notes at the top, and a narrow row on the bottom for your after-class summary. For a graphical display, download this .pdf file from Cornell’s website. If you want your own printable Cornell Method sheets, visit eleven21.com.

5. Ask your lecturer or professor for clarification on information that you don’t understand from your readings, the lecture or your notes. Do not hesitate to go to office hours or email them. Make your life easier when it comes time to study for an exam – you won’t have to wait a long time for an email reply (since everyone else will be waiting until the last minute for help)!

Coming tomorrow: Welcome to Soulville’s Back to School Installment #1


The 2007 Back to School series is designed to help students be more successful! New articles will be posted daily for two weeks, beginning August 13, 2007. Subscribe to the Back to School feed to get new installments in your feed reader.

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