Preparing Your Own Mental Computer Printout

What's the main goal of reading and studying school assignments?

That's an easy question: Most students want to be able to remember and use the material they go through so that they can do well on tests and papers.

And what's the best way to enable yourself to remember and use these materials?

Again, an easy answer: Take notes.

But most people don't know how to take notes that really help them remember and use important facts and concepts on tests and in papers. Average students tend to take notes on books and articles in one of two ways. They write copiously in prose essay style, line after line in a notebook, with few or any paragraphs. Or they write copiously in an outline format, with various items indented under other items; but often there's little forethought or planning.

Unfortunately, these approaches are both counterproductive because they encourage the brain to stay out of the process of learning and remembering. Such heavy, basically unorganized note-taking employs the eyes and the hands much more than the mind.

With these two methods, the student mainly sees the material on the page, and then, without thinking much about it, records what he has just seen on a piece of paper. There's little or no critical evaluation and no attempt to fix the main points in the memory.

In contrast, there are other techniques that will engage your mind at an early stage in studying. In effect, it's possible to turn your brain into a space-age computer, and transform your note-taking into a kind of "mental computer printout" that reflects a personal and profound understanding of the material. The end result should be a significant enhancement of your ability to remember and use the material you study.

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