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Handwrite your university notes - your grades will thank you!

Written by: Rory Sullivan

We all know the feeling. We’re writing a test or exam, and all of a sudden we feel the hand cramp. As a generation who has grown up typing our assignments, projects, and essays, our wrists are out of practice when those handwritten exams come around. Not only that, but studies have shown that students who type their notes don’t absorb and learn the knowledge as well as students who choose to handwrite their notes. So students put away the laptop, and take out your pencils because it’s time to go back to the basics!

There’s no doubt that typing notes is faster than writing them out, but faster doesn’t necessarily mean better. A lot of students who have been typing for their entire lives are able to type a professor’s lecture almost word for word. During my lectures, I would often see students glued to their screens hoping to copy every word the professor said, thinking that it would help them learn the content better. The problem is that when you’re focusing on typing everything instead of listening and thinking about the content, you will be less likely to retain any useful knowledge. Studies have shown that when students choose to write their notes by hand, they tend to rewrite what the professor has said in their own words, thereby helping them understand the overall concept more. When you write your notes down by hand, you also spend less time trying to copy everything down and more time on understanding and memorizing information that will be crucial for projects and exams.

When you sit down in your first university lectures, more likely than not, your prof will tell you that writing your notes is more advantageous than typing. Most of the time, when your prof tells you the ‘rules’ of the lecture, you zone out, but this tip is tried and true. Along with aiding memorization and learning, writing your notes will also prevent you from the inevitable distractions that come from electronics. I know. I sound about a million years old right now, but it’s true! I can’t tell you how many times I looked at someone’s screen in the lecture hall and saw an ASOS or Amazon shopping cart. Or someone who would literally be watching Youtube or Netflix while also typing notes. When you have the choice between listening to a lecture or online shopping, more often than not, students will choose the latter. Especially when you can use the excuse that “at least you attended the lecture and took notes.”

I was skeptical about writing my notes by hand. It’s not like high school where teachers will make sure everyone has written everything down before moving on; professors wait for no one. Especially when your class consists of 250 people. Of course, I was worried that I ran the risk of leaving out key pieces of information, but honestly, most professors post their slides after class. Writing down concepts in a way that you understand rather than word-for-word what your professor said will aid you in the long run. By handwriting your notes, you learn to identify the most important points from the concept, which requires thinking and understanding, instead of copying down the entire thing like a zombie. A Spanish study found that students who typed their notes were less likely to recall important information because they were not taking the time to understand and identify what was actually important within the concept. Unlike high school, university isn’t about absorbing information in class and then barfing that same information back onto the test or exam. It’s about critical thinking, questioning concepts, challenging your peers and professors, and overall enjoying what you’re being taught.

When the end of the semester rolls around, and it’s time for the scary exam, your professor doesn’t want you to answer the questions by repeating what they’ve taught you. Yes, they want to see that you have attended lectures and absorbed the class content, but most of the time they do not want to see a textbook answer. I will admit that some university exams will ask straightforward questions that require straightforward answers, but there are A LOT of courses that require more critical thinking than that. By typing your notes, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to think about what you’re hearing. Even if you have an exam that requires simple, straightforward answers, we’ve seen the evidence that handwriting your notes boosts your chances of recalling key information later on. Honestly, are there any cons insight?

Okay, there might be one. Technology is convenient and less messy. A lot more convenient than carrying around five different notebooks and a bunch of pens that may dry out at an inconvenient time (trust me, it happens a lot more than you’d think). But wait! There’s an alternative to pen and paper that ensures all the benefits of handwritten notes. Both Apple and Samsung have great deals right now for university students who are looking to buy technology for the school year. These deals include tablets that you are able to write handwritten notes on (using the separate tablet pens), which can then convert to digital format. Meaning you can have all the (many) benefits that come with handwritten notes, along with the convenience and organization that technology like tablets brings. Obviously, buying a new tablet is not realistic for everybody, and just a regular pen and paper have the same benefits that will help you succeed (it worked great for me in first year).

So, there you have it! There are no excuses or arguments that can penetrate my bulletproof logic. I’m just kidding, but it’s obvious that there are indisputable benefits to handwritten notes versus typed ones. Studies have clearly demonstrated that students who handwrite their notes are more likely to understand and retain information, as well as are less likely to be distracted by anything. And if you’re a digital person, no worries! There are options for those who would rather use technology, but still want to handwrite their notes. It is an adjustment, especially for those who have grown up surrounded by technology, but at the end of the day, it will help you become a better student and will help you avoid those nasty hand cramps we all hate! Happy writing everybody!

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