When we first learn something, information is processed by the brain to form a neural trace that first enters your sensory memory and then, if you’re paying attention, enters your Short Term Memory (STM).
If you keep working to process the information and adapt it correctly, it then moves to your Long Term Memory (LTM). The information that is processed into your LTM is more or less permanent and with occasional reviewing, you will not forget it.
The trick is to adapt the information that you really need into LTM as quickly as possible.
The ability to retain the specific information you need in working memory is important to overall learning, but especially for exam taking performance.
Research is unanimous – using drawings in your class and study notes improves your memory retention, comprehension and understanding. Yet most students stick to linear textual notes, why?
The most plausible reason is that most students don’t believe their sketches, drawings and illustrations are good enough. The important fact you should know is that the quality of the drawings have NOTHING to do with comprehension or recall. Your mind’s eye can remember what YOU drew. That’s all that counts.
Shy or bashful students should note that no one’s expected to read their notes, so it really doesn’t matter how primitive or sophisticated they are – as long as they make sense to you!
So there you have it – start doodling and don’t forget to use colours! The more colours you use, the better. Ideally you use codes for the colours so that recall is easier for your brain to sift through “looking for red versus blue information.”
There is no “best way” to take notes – you need to experiment and test what works best for you.
One thing is for sure – when highlighting a book – don’t highlight every single line, only highlight what you are sure you’re going to have difficulty remembering. Making an ultra-long list of highlights won’t help, it risks overloading you instead.
Dr Marc Dussault is the author of the bestselling “Get The Best Grades With The Least Amount Of Effort”, a student guide that has been sold to thousands of students in more than 30 countries and translated into 4 languages.