The Note-Taking Showdown: Handwritten or Typed?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Sarah Tse, General

With the last two years causing more and more teachers to have more virtual assignments, the topic of note-taking has come into the discussion; is it better for students to type their notes or to handwrite them? Do students remember the material more when they hand write their notes? Is there a difference at all? We looked at the research and asked students at Weddington to get an overall consensus. 


Better Memory, Better Grades

Most tests given by teachers contain questions that come directly from the notes taken in class. Due to this, it is crucial that when taking notes, the student not only copies everything down, but also retains that information for later usage. If you look at the comparison that way, it is popularly said that handwriting notes allows students to remember the notes more than typed notes. This is most likely because when writing out notes, you have to think about the shape of words and letters and you have to sound out the words in your mind. When you type notes, the process can become a mindless session of pressing keys down to match the words your teacher says. In short, the brain has to exert more effort into handwriting notes, which usually allows the brain to remember the content more accurately. 


The brain remembering the notes accurately doesn’t always help you to receive a good test score; the success you have depends on the effort you put into reviewing and studying the content. However, hand writing notes does provide a better base for building your knowledge as the topics in a class grow harder. In the retaining information category, handwriting notes seems to be the winner. 



There is a potential problem with handwriting notes. While the strategy may help you remember what you wrote down, you may not have as accurate information on your paper when compared to someone who types their notes. A lot of teachers have presentations with slides on them that they show the class before verbally adding on things they want you to know for quizzes and tests. While someone typing their notes will most likely be able to write down what the teacher said verbatim, someone handwriting their notes will have a longer process to complete in the same amount of time. Writing notes word for word takes a lot longer than typing due to having to write every letter out legibly, not having autocorrect to fix mistakes, and getting hand cramps that can occur from writing extensively. Not having all of the knowledge needed for the test defeats the purpose of taking notes. You’re remembering what was written down, but not everything was accounted for. In the efficiency category, it seems that typed out notes take the prize. 


Student Preference

As of now, the two methods of note-taking are at a close tie to which one wins over the other. In the end, the choice really does come down to personal preference. In order to get a true census on which type of note-taking we recommend to students everywhere, we asked students at Weddington from different grade levels which type of note-taking works best for them and which one they most commonly put to use.


When asked which method they prefer, an anonymous sophomore said, “It depends on what type of teacher a class has. For teachers who talk through notes rather than write them, I usually type them out, but if my teacher posts the notes on Canvas or only gives us some, writing notes down helps me remember them. Especially with vocab.” We asked the same student if they think one strategy is objectively better than the other, and they responded, “I guess it doesn’t really matter what format [the notes] are in, as long as you have them, you can study and remember the material just fine.” 


We asked another student, a junior this time, the same questions. “I always write down notes just because when I’m studying or doing assignments, I like to have my notes down on paper and my screen with the assignment or Quizlet on it. It allows more to be done at once. I think writing notes down is a better way to learn and review for tests.” 


Lastly, we asked a freshman at Weddington, who said, “I think writing notes is probably a better way to learn and remember things, but I always type them out for the convenience of it and because I just copy and paste to make flashcards. That’s what works for me and I think I remember the material well.” 


The Final Decision

Based on the comparisons and answers we got, it seems that handwriting notes is a better option when it is convenient. Even though one option is more popular than the other, the choice really boils down to you personally and what type of student you are. If typing notes works for you and you can still remember the material just fine, great! Everyone should take their notes and do their thing in the way that brings them the most success in the end.