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  • Since the very beginning, I've spoken at great length about how space repetition

  • with active recall is a foundational component to achieving stellar results in school.

  • We've even gone over how to create good Anki flashcards,

  • which is rarely done properly, even by popular study experts.

  • But even more foundational is how to take good notes.

  • I'll show you how to do just that.

  • Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • Taking good notes, whether from class or from your textbook, is nuanced and messy.

  • It's part of the reason I've pushed off talking about note-taking for so long.

  • Unlike many other components to studying, like memorization techniques,

  • note-taking doesn't naturally fall into a straightforward and streamlined process.

  • To consistently take useful notes,

  • you'll need to be adaptable with your approach, adjusting based on several variables,

  • such as the content you're learning, the lecturer who's teaching you, and a few other factors. Let's get started.

  • First, what is the purpose of taking notes?

  • This may seem obvious, but it's at this foundational question that many students get tripped up.

  • You should not be taking notes to copy verbatim from the professor or textbook.

  • This is the most common offense.

  • Rather, notes are a tool used to facilitate comprehension, memorization, and more effective future studying.

  • You can think of note-taking as two discrete steps: process function and product function.

  • The process function refers to the fact that the act of taking notes while listening to lecture

  • improves your comprehension and retention,

  • regardless of whether you review those notes.

  • The product function refers to the ability to review the notes in the future and commit facts to memory through rehearsal,

  • organization, or elaboration. With that in mind,

  • how should we decide what type of device to use when taking notes?

  • Write on a notepad, and you lose much of the convenience of storing files digitally,

  • or having them searchable, or being able to quickly insert images.

  • Type on a computer, and you cannot easily draw, or you may be prone to distractions like social media or instant messaging.

  • Additionally, Mueller and Oppenheimer in 2014

  • demonstrated that typing notes on a laptop is more likely to result in transcribing lectures verbatim

  • rather than deeper information processing and reframing into one's own words.

  • In short, less of it actually sticks.

  • Based on the Mueller and Oppenheimer paper, you may jump to the conclusion that taking notes by hand is superior than on the computer.

  • As always, the actual science is far more nuanced than lazy thinking and black-and-white summaries would have you believe.

  • Muller and Oppenheimer found an advantage to handwritten notes with regards to conceptual testing,

  • but no difference with regards to factual testing.

  • Additionally, this only tested the process function of note-taking, meaning taking the notes,

  • but not the product function, meaning reviewing the notes.

  • When they did allow laptop and written note-takers to review their notes,

  • the handwritten notes performed better in both factual and conceptual testing.

  • Settled? Not yet.

  • Dung and colleagues in 2012 found opposing results,

  • demonstrating that when participants could study their notes, those who used a computer to transcribe the lectures performed the best on delayed recall tests.

  • Similarly, Fiorella and Meir and 2017 showed that when allowed to study one's notes,

  • those who used a laptop performed better on factual information recall than those who took notes by hand,

  • postulating that those taking longhand notes experience greater extraneous cognitive processing which is ultimately a distraction -

  • a problem not faced by laptop note takers.

  • Perhaps these seemingly conflicting findings are best addressed by Luo et al. in 2018,

  • who address the main shortcomings of the three previous studies.

  • This table beautifully summarizes the key findings from each study.

  • Seems confusing? It should since there are several conflicting findings on the surface level.

  • With all this conflicting data, what should we believe?

  • Again, nuance is key, and the devil is in the details.

  • Here are the best practices. I recommend based on the data:

  • First, Eliminate Distractions

  • Completely disable all notifications and enter airplane mode if necessary to eliminate distractions from a laptop or tablet while taking notes in class.

  • Failing to do so drastically reduces any benefits offered by using an electronic device.

  • Number 2.) Avoid Transcribing

  • I type at 145 words per minute,

  • and if you're also a fast typist, you may find it easy to transcribe what the lecturer is saying verbatim.

  • This is a highly passive form of note-taking, and as we've discussed many times on this channel,

  • active learning is king.

  • While in lecture, your priority should be to understand the information.

  • To facilitate this process and avoid regurgitating, put it into your own words.

  • The data on the utility of transcribing is conflicting,

  • but that's due to study limitations and overall poor note-taking strategies within the studies.

  • Number 3.) Take Advantage of Images and Figures

  • Regardless of the medium you use when taking notes,

  • prioritize incorporating relevant images and figures into your notes.

  • With handwritten notes, you can draw them in yourself.

  • With a laptop or tablet, you can take a photo or screenshot and insert them directly into your notes.

  • Which brings us to our last point.

  • Traditionally, we look to either typing on a laptop or writing in a notebook,

  • but each system has significant downsides.

  • As we now enter a new decade in 2020, tablet devices are more affordable and accessible than ever,

  • and they allow for the best of both worlds - the convenience of typing and digital notes with the ability to draw and annotate.

  • I went with an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, but even a regular $300 iPad will get the job done.

  • Windows users should look to the Microsoft Surface.

  • If you have a different suggestion, share it with the rest of us in the comments below.

  • In terms of app, I highly recommend Notability or OneNote, as both allow for a flexible system of drawing,

  • typing, and importing images or PDFs that you can annotate.

  • I used to use Evernote and Apple notes,

  • but they're drawing functionality is highly restrictive.

  • And while I do love Notion, the lack of drawing or annotating holds it back in the purposes of in-class note taking.

  • Now that we have the fundamentals in place, how do we approach note-taking most effectively?

  • The first step is to take good notes.

  • Cornell notes follow an intelligent structure that facilitates active learning and recall.

  • On the left side, you write down key words or questions that you use to quiz yourself later.

  • On the right-hand side, you take your notes in traditional nested outline format.

  • At the bottom, you write a summary of the information on the page.

  • While well-intentioned, I do not recommend you use this format,

  • as there are much better ways to incorporate active learning and recall into your daily studying,

  • which we'll get to shortly.

  • The outline method is my favorite, and it's one of the most popular methods used by college and medical students.

  • It's quite simple. You start with a main topic or idea, and if there is a subtopic related to that idea,

  • you nest it with an indent.

  • If you have another supporting fact of that subtopic, you nest that point further.

  • This allows for a clean, organized, and straightforward way to organize the information from class.

  • You should use this as your default to go-to in most situations. If this seems straightforward and simple, it should.

  • That's because during this stage, you're simply seeking to understand and organize the information in a way that makes sense to you.

  • It's in the next step where additional effort and adaptability comes in.

  • Once we've taken the notes, the key to learning the information and crushing your exams isn't to simply review the notes again and again.

  • That's the silly brute force method I used in college, and it's the method most students use too much frustration.

  • Rather, you need to practice forms of active learning. In determining the method to use,

  • consider what makes the coursework challenging. Most classes are either fat heavy or concept heavy.

  • In fact heavy courses, there is simply an immense amount of information you need to memorize,

  • but the facts aren't all that difficult to make sense of.

  • Think of history or psychology.

  • Concept heavy, on the other hand, means the difficulty lies in understanding and applying the concepts.

  • Think mathematics, neuroscience, or cardiology.

  • It's not a black and white, either-or, as just about all subjects have a mix of facts you need to memorize and difficult concepts to understand,

  • but some will be more dominant in facts and some will be more dominant in concepts.

  • Understanding how fact or concept dominant a subject is will guide you in how to study most effectively.

  • Summary sheets, also known as condensed notes, are notes you take of your notes. (I know, pretty meta).

  • Essentially, you're trimming the fat, condensing, and synthesizing your notes into something more manageable.

  • Don't simply write smaller. Rather, you should be making connections you didn't realize during lecture

  • and synthesizing the information in new ways, such as in tables or other visuals.

  • Summary sheets get a bad rap amongst the evidence-based learning community because some studies have shown they aren't all that effective.

  • I'd argue they are indeed quite helpful - again, nuance is key.

  • When certain study strategies are employed in a research setting, the nuance is understandably lost.

  • For summary sheets to be worthwhile, two conditions must be met.

  • First, the subject should be concept heavy,

  • and second, don't simply copy your notes,

  • but making an active learning process by actively seeking to understand, make connections, and simplify.

  • This shouldn't be easy or comfortable, but that's to be expected of any effective active learning method.

  • In my pulmonology during the first year of medical school, I scored in the top 3 of my entire first-year class.

  • I first took simple outline method notes as I attended lecture.

  • Here's a sample PowerPoint slide with my notes below.

  • Later on, I went home and condensed the notes into a single piece of paper, front and back, that looked something like this.

  • I took a photo and saved it to Evernote for me to reference later when I needed to review.

  • Next up, synthesis questions, which are appropriate amongst a broader range of subjects.

  • I'm grateful that my medical school provided us with learning objective questions,

  • which was my first introduction to the practice of synthesis questions.

  • But you don't need someone else to make them for you - you can make them yourself.

  • Let's take cardiology block during my first year of medical school,

  • one of the most conceptually challenging blocks,

  • but also one of the blocks where I set the curve and ranked number 1 in my medical school.

  • Again, I started off with outline method notes, but after lecture, I worked on synthesis questions.

  • Again, this is best served when it becomes an active process, such as when you're making a table of two similar but distinct entities.

  • Simply copying down information does not help you here.

  • For example, after learning about skeletal and cardiac muscle, I made a table comparing the two.

  • Here's another table comparing systemic and pulmonary blood circulations.

  • The process of making the table was an active process that reinforced the material and my understanding of it,

  • plus I had the added benefit of a high-yield table to review at a future date.

  • Third, we have a crowd favorite, flashcards.

  • If you've watched my other videos, you know I love flashcards, specifically Anki,

  • a free flashcard app that I've made tutorials on how to use.

  • Students often ask me if they should make flashcards directly in class.

  • I actually tried doing this in medical school during some blocks, and it's not a good idea.

  • The reason being is that you'll make very low-quality flashcards that have far too much information on them,

  • or test you on multiple facts, or don't follow other best practices.

  • This translates to highly inefficient flashcards and wasted effort.

  • It's for this same reason that I don't recommend you use Cornell notes.

  • Making good flashcards is a difficult process,

  • but I've simplified it and outlined how exactly to do so in a previous video.

  • Link in the description.

  • Flashcards should only be made after you have organized the information,

  • understand it deeply, and have made connections or simplifications in your head or on paper.

  • Flashcards are used to drill in information that requires rote memorization more so than conceptual understanding.

  • And there you have it. This is my note-taking process that earned me a 99.9th% percentile on my MCAT,

  • top marks in medical school and on my USMLE,

  • and allowed me to match into the hyper-competitive field of plastic surgery.

  • There are some other techniques unrelated to notes,

  • Such as practice problems, the Feynman technique, and more, but I've gone over those in my popular Study Less, Study Smart video,

  • which is the highest yield study video I've ever created.

  • If you're serious about getting straight A's in class and crushing your MCAT or USMLE,

  • visit us on MedSchoolInsiders.com. As you know, I'm a firm believer that systems produce results.

  • That's why my team and I at Med School Insiders obsessed over how to become the best admissions consulting

  • and tutoring company for future physicians.

  • At Med School Insiders, our mission is to empower a generation of happier, healthier, and more effective future doctors.

  • From medical school or residency application help to crushing your MCAT or USMLE, we've got your back.

  • And our results speak for themselves.

  • We've become the fastest growing company in this space with the highest satisfaction ratings.

  • See for yourself and learn more at MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • Thank you all so much for watching.

  • What other study technique questions do you have? Drop a comment below and I'll consider making a future video about it.

  • Much love to you all, and I will see you guys in that next one.

Since the very beginning, I've spoken at great length about how space repetition

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How to Take Notes | Science-Based Strategies to Earn Perfect Grades

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    Summer posted on 2020/06/08
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