Making Textbook Notes Work for You
Taking effective notes is one of the most important skills a student can master. However, many students do not realize that taking notes from the instructor’s lectures is only one part of taking effective class notes.
Another skill, and one that is far less common, is learning how to take effective textbook notes.
However, by mastering this skill, the student can dramatically improve his or her performance both in class and at during the final exams.
Why Take Textbook Notes?
Many vet tech students fail to take notes from their textbooks, assuming that merely reading the textbook is sufficient. However, that is far from the truth. There are a number of reasons to take notes based on the textbook.
- Relating the textbook to class lectures and other information.
- Focusing on points that will be covered in later tests.
- Going over information that has proven difficult for the student to grasp.
- Saving time by taking notes.
Relating the Textbook to Class Lectures
The instructor will often choose to focus on certain aspects of his or her class.
In many cases, the student can benefit from making notes to relate what the instructor is focusing on as opposed to the general information in the textbook.
This can be used in two ways.
The first is to gather more information about what the instructor has been lecturing on.
The second is to remind the student that even those items that the instructor has not extensively covered will still be on the final exam and must, therefore, be understood by the student.
Focusing on Later Points
Reading the entire textbook can be difficult, especially on the night before the final exam.
By making notes about those points of the class that are likely to be covered in the final examination, the student can make it easier to quickly review that information.
Many instructors will openly tell the class what the final exam will cover, and may even call out specific parts of the class’ textbooks that are likely to be covered at the end of the class.
By paying attention to this information and noting it down, the student can be assured that he or she will not face any unpleasant surprises over the course of the class.
Going over Difficult Information
Every student confronts aspects of the class that he or she is taking that are more difficult than other parts.
By noting down information about these parts of the class, the student can help ensure that they can make effective use of their time when studying for the class’ exams.
Without such notes, the student may very well find that he or she is simply wasting time going over information that is already well understood instead of material that needs to be reviewed.
Saving Time by Taking Notes
Today, even a small textbook may run for hundreds of pages and many come close to a thousand pages in length.
When trying to study, a student must make the most efficient use of his or her study time.
Taking notes on the textbook allows the student to focus on the most important parts of the book, rather than continually wasting time by focusing on non-essential parts.
This can be especially important for textbooks that are “wordy” and waste a great deal of time on introductions and conclusions or extra information that really is not useful to the student’s immediate needs.
Methods to Take Effective Notes
There are a number of ways to take effective notes from class textbooks, many of which take advantage of new technology that has only recently become available.
Notes within the Textbook Itself
Many students decide to write their notes directly on the textbook itself, while also highlighting important information.
This can be a very effective way to make important information immediately noticeable while also calling attention to those parts of the textbook that are most important to the class.
However, should the student lose or sell his or her textbook, all of this information is obviously lost.
Writing Information on a Separate Notebook or Computer
Students who desire to keep their book in mint condition, generally write their notes on a separate notebook or more recently, on a tablet or other computer.
This method allows the student to keep the notes conveniently at hand in a package that is likely somewhat lighter than the textbook itself.
Entering notes on a tablet or other computer allow the student to search his or her notes by keyword, which can be very useful for students who must sift through a wide range of information.
For example, graduate students may have to search the notes for literally dozens of books when they are in the process of completing their thesis or preparing for their graduate examinations.
However, keeping notes separate from the textbook does present the danger that the notes might be misplaced or destroyed.
For this reason, it is generally wise to copy or otherwise back up any of these notes and leave at least one copy in a secure location.
By doing so, the student can be protected from disasters ranging from forgetting their notes after working at the library or spilling a drink on them right before the final examination.
The increasing availability of cheap dedicated recorders and software that can turn any cell phone into an effective recorder has made recorded notes more popular.
Some students also make use of software that converts their words into written information, making it simple to search through the transcribed notes for information.
This is especially useful in that it allows the student to avoid the need for bulky notebooks or tablets and they can review the information at their leisure even while taking part in other activities.
However, verbal notes can easily become disorganized and hard to understand. A student taking this route should focus on developing a system or organization that allows them to easily find the information they need.
The audio files should be stored under filenames that note their date and what part of the book they cover, in order to ensure that the student can find the information they need without a great deal of trouble.
Ultimately, taking effective textbook notes is an excellent way to maximize the student’s productivity in his or her class.
These notes will not only help the student do well in the final exams, like the VTNE, but will also help the student in doing well in all the classes to follow.
For this reason, students should see their textbook notes as an investment in the future.