Q. How to Get Good Grades? A. Take Better Notes

Did you know that students who take good notes are likely to achieve higher grades? But that the process of taking written notes is more intellectually demanding than playing chess?


How to get good grades: the research

Research shows that creating good quality notes from lectures is directly related to performance in exams*.

Unfortunately, students often only manage to capture 20-40% of the important points covered.

That’s because it’s devilishly difficult to take comprehensive notes while also trying to listen to, understand and process complex information.

Consequently, many students are left with substandard notes that do them no favours when they come to revise for an exam or write an essay or dissertation.


Harder than chess

The process of writing notes in lectures is far harder than you might think.

According to the research**, it places a bigger burden on your memory and processing skills than playing chess.

The explanation is that you are asking your brain to do the following all at the same time:

• Identify and understand the most important ideas and concepts under discussion

• Hold that information in your working memory

• Add the information to your notes accurately before it is forgotten or the lecture moves on***

Throw in other factors such as your fragile emotional state after last night’s disco in the Union, and it’s easy to see why many students’ notes don’t come up to scratch.


Alternative approaches

To sidestep the shortcomings of written notes, students are now looking to tools and techniques that support effective note taking, such as mind maps and outlining.

But for these approaches to be effective, you must still have strong organisational skills and great confidence in your note-taking ability.

A popular alternative is to record lectures and revisit the recording in a more relaxed setting.

This approach is supported by research which has found that focussing on listening to complex or challenging lecture material leads to better results than trying to take notes at the time****.


How Sonocent Audio Notetaker can help

By recording your lecture into Audio Notetaker, you can focus on listening and review the key topics later – annotating and highlighting important content.

The software represents audio in visual chunks – phrase-by-phrase – so working with the recording is easy.

Plus you can add slides, text notes and reference material alongside your recording – so that everything you will need to know about a subject is there in one workspace.

To quote one student, “My favourite feature is the ability to store notes from different types of media in one file, making it easy to collate ideas and thoughts.”


The stats

In a recent survey, 90% of our users agreed with the following statements about Audio Notetaker:

• My notes were organised and easy to find.

• My notes were clear and easy to read.

• My notes captured all the important points.

• I could find the important points in my notes.

• I was able to take notes independently.

• I was confident that my notes would help me study.

• I found it easier and more worthwhile to make notes.


So in summary…

Research shows that good notes lead to better grades. But the task of taking written notes is complex and demanding. Capturing and annotating recordings of lectures is a proven way to take better notes. And Audio Notetaker helps students taker higher-quality notes than using text or audio alone.


Over to you

What do you think? Do you find it hard to take good notes in lectures? Are you surprised that note-taking is so closely linked with better grades? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Dig deeper

VIDEO: How better notes lead to better grades

WEBSITE: A useful study resource


* Titsworth, Kiewra (2004)
** Piolat, Olive, Kellogg (2005)
*** Peverly, Vekaria, Reddington, Sumowski, Johnson, Ramsay (2013)
**** Hadwin, Kirby and Woodhouse (1999)

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