As a student, Note-taking is a revision technique you should avoid (proven in hundreds of studies)

As a student, Note-taking is a revision technique you should avoid (proven in hundreds of studies)


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Most students believe that taking notes is an effective revision technique. This, however, isn't the case, proven by hundreds of studies.

This belief that we must write everything down has led us to neglect our memory. We write down everything. And if we write down everything, we might as well write down nothing.

Inefficient note-taking results in

  • the feeling of being productive (even though we are not)
  • writing down the exact words the teacher has used (even though we don't understand them)
  • might scratch our ego because if, even though we took notes, we didn't perform well
  • learning things by heart and not actually understanding it
  • not participating in class (focused on taking notes)

Compared to other revision techniques,, note-taking is of low utility

This study underlines that active recall and spaced repetition are of high utility. In total, the study examined 10 learning techniques.

Do you know this situation? You come out of a lecture and have written several pages of notes. But you have no idea where this fits into the big picture.

Taking notes gives the impression that you have accomplished something, and you even have it on paper. Ali Abdaal tells us in his Study Series that a friend in Cambridge ranked first in medical school only by writing down questions for himself. So instead of taking notes, he wrote down questions. He then reviewed them regularly without looking at the answers.

Another option would be to only take notes after class. After class, brain dump everything you remember from the lecture. Then, compare it immediately with your study material and identify what is missing.

To shift your mindset about studying, think about how you can engage your brain

Instead of taking notes on the computer, try writing them by hand. This will take more time and thus force you to write notes in your own words. If you are not the most organized person, try a Rocketbook to store your papers in one central location.

Using active recall and spaced repetition instead of taking notes has the following benefits

  • having more free time, spending less time studying
  • better grades
  • admiration from classmates

This will open new doors.

Free yourself from comfortable study methods, like taking notes. If it isn't practical, it will go away for good

Most students take notes, thinking that they are being productive.

However, you are now one of the few of us who are familiar with evidence-based study techniques. If you want to lower your cortisol (stress) levels, have more free time, and feel and be productive, then you know what to do now.

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