By
Zahavit Paz

Taking notes is not easy since normal speech is about 135 words per minute while writing is only about 40 words per minute. Even if you write fast, you can only capture about 30% of all the words that are said.

  1. Preparation is Important: Short cuts often lead to more actual work while preparation, more time consuming in the beginning, will save you time and energy in the long run.
  2. Three-Ring Binders and Organizing Handouts: A three-ring binder is a great tool for organization. Take a three-hole punch with you (they sell ones that fit right in binders) so you can instantly put your handouts safely into your binder. Date them immediately to keep them in order. Also, you can get tabs to mark subjects which helps you to retrieve exactly what you want easily. Bonus: it will impress your professors.
  3. Notebooks: Think about how much notebook space you will need for each course and be sure to leave extra room. Be careful about buying one notebook for multiple subjects; you may run out of space. Additionally, if you buy notebooks in different colors you can recognize the different subjects easily. When I was rushing to class, as was often the case, the different colors allowed me to avoid picking up the wrong notebooks.
  4. Look at Your Notes: Don t just take notes and not look at them again until your midterm or final. Instead, go over them an write a summary of your notes shortly after you ve taken them.
  5. What Works for You: Try to create your own uniform method of taking notes. Since you have learning differences, the traditional note-taking methods may not work for you. Here are a few ideas:
    • Experiment with columns and spacing. I tried many different formats and eventually found one I liked. Using a two column format, like the one often used in grammar schools, was quite helpful. It provides a visual distinction between main ideas (on the left) and details (on the right).
    • For me, numbering works better than letters, and I get totally lost with Roman numerals, so I number everything.
    • I am a visual learner, so I like using different colored pens for different topics. I always carry different colored pens with me, even to business appointments.
  6. Guidelines: Write a guideline for yourself about the techniques you will be using in your note taking. Like the symbols and abbreviations that you continually use, they become your own note-taking language.
  7. Ask for Advice: If you notice a classmates taking good note, ask them to show you their methods. You d be surprised how helpful they become, especially if you let them know that you are LD. I had that experience many times and their tips were useful. I also realized that they invested lots of time in their note-taking. Knowing that I wasn t the only one who had to work at it turned out to be very transformational for me.
  8. Get Help: A big obstacle for people with ADD, ADHD and dyslexia is that they get distracted a lot, so their notes tend to be incomplete. Assess your weaknesses and limitations and, if you still have difficulties, contact the disability department and make arrangements for a note taker or for permission to record your classes.
    • Remember! LD students are entitled to reasonable accommodations. They are listed in section 504 of the rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Those acts were established to allow you to have equal opportunity. Every educational institution is required to comply with federal rules and must have a section 504 officer. Often, the 504 officer is the director of the learning disability department and can point you to a learning disabilities counselor who can provide you with good advice and possible solutions for you.
  9. Don t be Shy or Intimidated and Do Ask Questions: They will lead you to your solutions.
  10. Here Are Some Useful Shorthand Symbols:
    • –>
      leads to, causes

      Practice –> Improvement
    • +
      and

      coffee + cream
    • /
      per

      17 miles/gallon
    • ?
      question

      she asked ?s
    • ~
      approximately, about

      She made ~ 25 copies
    • .·.
      therefore

      I think, .·. I am
    • =
      equal to, is, same as

      Women are = to men
    • w/
      with

      I went w/ my friends
    • w/o
      without

      They fought w/o fear.
    • e.g.
      for example

      Students with LDs, e.g. ADD and dyslexia, have a hard time taking notes
    • b/c
      because

      I go to class b/c I want to learn.
    • b4
      before

      I went to high school b4 I went to college
    • re:
      regarding, about

      I need to see you re: the sales figures.
    • esp.
      especially

      Tobacco, esp. cigarettes, causes cancer.
    • gov t
      government

      The U.S. gov t passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.