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The 5 R’s of Note-taking

taking-notesInformation presented in class often contains the central concepts of the course and the material most likely to be included on exams. Taking notes of the information presented is an important process.

It allows you to have a written record of the lecture which may not be in your textbook. Lecture notes can be a critical tool for preparing for exams. It also ensures that you become an active and involved listener and learner.

Professor Walter Pauk of the Study Center at Cornell University once described five essential aspects of note taking, which he referred to as the five R’s. They are important enough to mention here:

  1. Recording

    Get down all the main ideas and facts.

  2. Reducing

    To reduce is to summarise. Pick out the key terms and concepts. You can make from your notes what some students call “cram sheets.” These are lists, usually in outline form, that give you the bare bones of a course. You can use them as cues for reciting the details of what you have learned. On each page of notes you take, allow room to write down such cues.

  3. Reciting

    The advice above gives you an important principle. Recite to yourself. Don’t assume you know something just because you’ve read and understood it. You have to tell someone else — your instructor — about what you have learned. So recite. In your own words.

  4. Reflecting

    Ideas from your courses are meant to be thought about. Even though you know that, you may not practise it. It’s easy to fall into just giving back the information you have learned. Don’t do that. Then too, if you reflect about what you are learning, you won’t be surprised when ideas turn up on examinations in an unexpected form.

  5. Reviewing

    The most important part of the art of studying is knowing when, how, and what to review. But however you do it, reviewing is essential. Even the accomplished performer — the pianist or the actor — knows that a review, no matter how well he or she may know the material, is essential to a professional performance.

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