Why prepare for an exam this way?

Randomized trials have repeatedly proven that strong links exist between taking notes (in your own handwriting, not typed) and increased ability to recall facts (both short-term and long-term recall) and increased overall comprehension of material.

The view that the only reason for taking notes during lectures is to have a record of what was said and done for later studying is a misguided view. 

Experimentation demonstrates that taking notes during lectures has two primary benefits. More important than a record of the class experience for later study is the fact that the act of taking notes during lecture aids in understanding the content of the lecture itself. 

Randomized trials have demonstrated the following concrete benefits from taking notes during lectures: increased comprehension, increased short-term recall, increased long-term recall, increased attention during lectures, increased engagement with material, increased ability to paraphrase and elaborate on lecture information, increased desire to clarify confusing points, and increased exam performance.

The best study guide is the one that you prepare and that preparation starts by taking notes during lectures. The best review for the exam is the review that you organize when you prepare for an exam in the manner described in these pages. The most beneficial practice problems are the ones you attempt on your own (or with classmates).

Note: The pragmatic answer applies as well.

Last Revision: January 13, 2009