Taking notes is an important part of learning, understanding, and digesting the information you need to know for the bar exam. Most students find they absorb more information if they take notes during their lectures, as opposed to simply listening. In many cases, your notes will be your primary study material for the bar exam, so good note-taking makes a significant difference. Here are four strategies to help you take great notes.
- Handwrite Your Notes
While taking notes on laptops and tablets is a great way to stay focused in class and keep your notes organized, research has shown that taking notes by hand can be even more effective. When students use a laptop, they typically take notes verbatim, which limits brain activity and the learning process. Because we can type each word as we hear it, our brain doesn't have the chance to synthesize or analyze the information we hear. However, handwriting notes requires the information be digested and summarized, which helps people better understand, retain, and remember their substance. If you are a typist, you can essentially get the best of both worlds if you print your notes single-sided, hole-punch them on the right side of the page (if you are right handed), and then place them in a binder. This way, you’ll have the blank back of the next page to scribble notes, definitions, and elements by hand as you study.
- Do Not Write Word For Word
Rather than trying to write every single word down, listen, digest, and summarize what you have heard. Your notes should end up being short, to the point, and in your own words.
- Create Your Own Shorthand
Keeping up with long lectures or readings can be exhausting, especially for your hand and wrist. Create shorthand comprised of simple symbols and abbreviations to make your note-taking quicker, more efficient, and most importantly, easier on your muscles.
- Stay Organized
Throughout your bar review course and independent studying you'll take tons of notes, but what good are they if you can't easily locate specific pieces of information? Dividing your notes by topics, using bullet points or diagrams, and creating an indexing system to keep your notes organized will make reviewing them that much easier.
Just as there are note-taking strategies that work, there are others that are ineffective and waste your time. The following are study strategies to stay away from:
- Underlining your notes
- Using highlighters
- Last-minute studying/cramming
- Studying in the wrong environment
- Sacrificing sleep
After writing your notes, go back and rework them, taking time to summarize key concepts and explaining difficult points so that you’ll be ready for them if they show up on the essays. Writing effective and organized notes will be key to your bar exam success!