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To Take Notes or Not to Take Notes? THAT is the Question

When I listen to a lecture, should I take notes or just listen?

Some students are more successful when they listen to the lecture. They can catch and remember many details from the lecture and answer fact/detail questions correctly. Other students cannot remember all the details. These students may have to take some notes. Lectures can get long and taking some notes is necessary for most students.

How do I know which strategy I should use?

Practice it both ways. Practice with notes. Practice without notes. See which strategy you are most comfortable with and go with that strategy. If the strategy is working, you will notice that you are getting more fact/detail questions correct in the Listening section. If the strategy is not working, you need to try something different. You may need to take less notes or more notes. You may need to go back to more basic-listening exercises for ESL learners which can be found online and master those exercises before moving up a level to faster-paced TOEFL lectures. Listening to sitcoms and movies in English is fine too. However, more practice is needed when it comes to lectures. Lectures found on youtube, podcasts on academic topics and documentaries are great practice.

When you do take notes, remember to:

1. Create your own abbreviations, pictures and symbols that you understand and can read.

My favorite symbols are

$ money

Am Americans

:) it’s good

:( it’s bad

+ advantage

-- disadvantage

=> results in

2. Write clearly so you can read your notes.

3. Take notes in English only so that there is no time wasted in translation.

The best way to improve note taking is to practice it everyday! Then, read your notes aloud being sure that you can summarize the main idea and the supporting points while including at least one example.

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