What Type of Note-Taker are You?
College courses are about 10% testing and 90% note-taking. If your teacher is giving a lecture, whether they tell you to or not, you should probably be taking notes.
According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, you’ll have forgotten around 75% of what you learned in class by the next day (if you don’t review or do anything with the information). By the time midterm exams roll around, it’ll be like you’d never seen the material before in your life. You’ll be completely relearning it from scratch! If you haven’t been taking notes, let this be your warning.
Most people understand the importance of writing stuff down. Nevertheless, not all notes are created equal. Some students take great pride in their note-taking abilities. If you’re like me, you’re just rushing to get it down before the slide changes. It doesn’t matter that everyone’s listening to the same lecture; each notebook tells a different story.
Some people have a natural gift for storytelling. In one class, I remember constantly snooping over at my friend’s notes. They were beautiful. They were organized. Taken in a rainbow of colors, each line was evenly spaced and written so perfectly that even a computer would be jealous. Look at my notes from a certain angle and it’s like a chicken dipped in charcoal ran across the page.
Whether your handwriting looks more like mine or my friend’s, you’ve probably got a unique style for taking notes. Based on the notebooks I’ve borrowed and seen in the classroom, here are the types of note-takers I’ve encountered most in college. Which one are you?
OMG! N CLASS. TTLY TTYL. G2G! If the previous sentence made any sense to you, you might be a txtr. In a world of smartphones and instant messaging, texting has become the new method of communication. So much so, that it’s been brought out of the chat rooms and into the classroom. Expect a txtr’s notebook to be comprised of mostly shorthand and abbreviations. They simplify their notes as much as possible, even at the risk of looking unprofessional and their notes being hard to understand out of context.
Pros: They take notes super quick. They’re ahead of the times.
Cons: It’s hard to take them seriously. Their notes can be confusing.
They’ve got a whole transcript of the lesson! Even when the teacher went wildly off-topic and when Billy asked to use the restroom. Copiers write every sentence, word for word, from the board. They’re usually hunched over their desk, a focused look on their face, pencil always at the ready. While copiers tend to have the best notes, since basically everything you could need is there, they tend to run out of ink. You can tell when a copier has run out of juice when there’s a sentence that suddenly trails off. A whole section of information might get lost in translation. Reading over it is like picking up a garbled radio transmission. Despite the occasional paper jam, copiers can seemingly go on forever, and they never tire while writing notes.
Pros: There’s no way something will be on the test that wasn’t in their notes. They can go on forever. After painstakingly recreating the lesson in their notebook, they could probably teach it themselves.
Cons: They have a hard time keeping up. While impressive at first, closer observation of their notes reveals sentence fragments and accidental recordings of the ramblings and wandering of the subconscious. They use up a lot of pencils and paper.
They’re the person everyone wants to borrow notes from. How is their handwriting so pretty, despite being rushed out during a lecture? Some calligraphers take it to the next level, using multicolored pens to bedazzle their notes and keep the information organized. Everything is separated into easy-to-read blocks of text, each line a work of art.
Pros: Their notes are always neat and legible. They’re easy to study and make everyone else jealous.
Cons: They sacrifice more time and effort into their note taking. Everyone asks to borrow their notes.
Most people know better than to borrow a cryptographer’s notes. Their handwriting is so bad, it looks like it’s written in another language, and one that only they seem to understand. You can also expect some shorthand and random words thrown in that relate to the subject in a way only the cryptographer can decode. If they remember. There’s a reason they wrote “Iron Man” next to the element Fe in their notes… or at least they’re pretty sure there was. Have to get back to you on that.
Pros: They take notes quickly. No one bothers them about wanting to borrow their notes.
Cons: While they can usually read their handwriting, sometimes their notes end up completely illegible. I’ve taken notes then went back to study them and had no idea what I had written.
Sharpshooters never miss a point. They target the important information in a lecture and bag it for their notes. They only cover the meat of the topic and what’s needed for the test. They also use plenty of bullets to list out the main ideas of each lesson.
Pros: Their notes are simple and non-distracting. They have expert focus. They are quick and catch all of the major points of a lesson.
Cons: They don’t write down supplementary information and they rely heavily on memory. If you missed class, don’t borrow their notes. They likely don’t go into enough depth.
Wait, we were supposed to be taking notes? They’re the kid in class who has their phone hidden behind a book. Even if they’re pretending to pay attention, by the end of the lesson, they have nothing to show for it. No notes, and likely no idea what they were supposed to be learning.
Pros: They’re saved the effort of taking notes.
Cons: Good luck on the test… they’re going to need it. They’re doing more work avoiding taking notes than it would be taking them.
“Can I borrow your notes? I missed class yesterday. I had an appointment…with that new episode of Better Call Saul.” The skip and the sleeper make a great pair. Except the skip doesn’t even bother attending class.
Pros: No sitting through boring lectures.
Cons: They waste their college tuition. They’re always borrowing notes. What was their name again?
People mistake their notebook for a comic book. The margins are completely littered with cartoon characters. Sometimes they illustrate the lesson with fun stick figure scenes and inventive diagrams. Other times they start doodling and forget they’re in class until the bell rings and the only thing they have on the page is a panda wearing a wizard hat riding on a one-eyed dragon. Somehow, I don’t think that will come in handy for the history exam. If they get caught doodling in class, there’s about a 50-50 chance they will either be scolded or complemented for their art. Unless it’s an evil caricature of the teacher…. Don’t do it.
Pros: Their notebook is fun to look at. Illustrated lessons are easier to remember. Doodling while taking notes keeps them awake and stimulated in class.
Cons: They frequently zone out and miss the lesson. Their notes are extremely busy.
They have the notes for every subject in one big book. Their notes contain a variety of the above methods; from doodles to bullet points and a plethora of sentence fragments. While to most, their notes look like a war zone, somehow, they manage to keep it all under control.
Pros: Their method of note-taking is very unique and open.
Cons: Their notebook is an absolute mess.
Mild-mannered student by day, writer by night... but typically by day, I’m Bailey Werner, current junior and graphic design major at Fort Hays State University. With a passion for storytelling that stemmed from 3rd grade writing hour, I’ve been crafting worlds and characters as a hobby for over a decade. Now, as a part-time content creator for the school, I’m living out my dream of writing professionally. If I’m not in my room reading, gaming, or making art, you can find me at the lake. I strongly believe in the power of storytelling, and I’ll continue to use my writing skills after graduation, in my work as a graphic designer.