Effective note taking tips for medic students

Updated September 29, 2015

Most of us probably were regular note takers during our initial training, but most likely don’t take notes anymore. Just like how we use SAMPLE and OPQRST to organize information from patients, a note taking system will help you organize and retain the information you are given during a training class or conference presentation.

I begin by writing my notes in an outline format. Then I use this system:

  • I listen for keywords or transitions that indicate when the speaker is starting a main topic or sub topic. Phrases like, “we are going to talk about our new respiratory distress protocol” or “after a short break, I will answer your pharmacology questions.”
  • Next, I try to write down ideas or points that the speaker gives special emphasis to. Listen for things like, “this is really important” or “I want you to remember this key point.”
  • Finally, I write down information that is new to me, information I find especially interesting, or information that clarifies what I have heard before. For example, I had to hear several explanations about the importance of positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) before I really understood its importance.

Here is an interesting article about how students that listened to a podcast of a university lecture scored better on the test if they also took notes: ‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing

One final note, share your note taking tips in the comments area.

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