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Categories: Memory

Why you should ditch the computer and make study notes by hand 

By  Lysette Offley

Why you should ditch the computer and make revision notes by handEspecially these days, when we are so dependent on our trusty computers both for finding information and also for filing it, it’s tempting to make our study notes on them too.

But there’s a problem with this.

Well, only a problem if your reason for making the study notes is to absorb and retain the information you are writing about.

Because, research has now proven that it’s far too easy for your brain to switch off and for your autopilot to take over! Awfully clever, if you think about it… that at a speed of, say, 40 words a minute, and easily keeping up with the teacher, you can transcribe what you’re hearing into your computer, with word for word accuracy…

…and not take in a single word of that information!

An amazing feat, but pretty useless when it comes to learning stuff for exams.

It’s something I often write about, and so you can imagine how delighted I was when the authors of the research project, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard” made contact with me.

Why you should ditch the computer and make revision notes by handYou see, it is now known with absolute certainty, that despite 65% of students believing that taking notes on their computer benefits their learning, and despite the fact that on average they can only write 22 words per minute, almost half the speed of using a computer, on the whole, they will remember more of the information that they are writing about.

I’m all about efficiency and efficacy. What on earth is the point of doing anything in the name of revision, unless it helps you towards your goal of learning and remembering?

Here’s what we know about making handwritten study notes:

  • It keeps you engaged, focused, alert and involved
  • Unlike those typing their revision notes you don’t waste 40% of your time surfing the internet (You know who you are!)
  • You have to process the information and reframe it as you write
  • It triggers critical, constructive thinking
  • It’s easier to summarise the main points
  • You get a stronger conceptual understandingWhy you should ditch the computer and make revision notes by hand
  • Applying and integrating the material is easier
  • Your brain retains more of the information
  • People with handwritten study notes perform better in tests

How to prepare yourself to write smart revision notes:

  • Use a ring binder instead of a book to write in
  • Use plain paper to write your study notes on
  • Date, title and number your pages
  • Use highlighters strategically
  • Read recommended material and deepen your understanding

Why you should ditch the computer and make revision notes by handSo it really does pay off to attend to the Three Keys to Learning:

  1. Spend enough time with the information for your brain to make a pattern of it and send it to your long-term memory.
  2. Actively manipulate the information, according to how your brain prefers to process, store and retrieve data.
  3. Follow the Learning Cycle, and stop that info automatically being deleted by your unconscious mind.

There is such a wealth of research about learning, it makes no sense not to use it to make our revision easier, more effective and much, much more rewarding.

Click on this great infographic to see more reasons to hand-write study notes for better exam grades.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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Lysette Offley

Genius Maker & Founder of Genius Material and The Genius Principles. Working with professionals who need exceptional academic & professional development.

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