Students who write notes by hand during lectures perform better in exams than those who use laptops, according to a new study.

Handwritten notes can help students better understand lectures and may also lead to superior revision.

The new research into how note-taking affects students’ academic performance found that laptop users are less able to remember concepts they have been taught.

The study was carried out by Daniel Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, and Pam Mueller, a psychology graduate student at Princeton University.

The series of experiments aimed to find out whether using a laptop increased the tendency to make notes “mindlessly” by transcribing word for word.

In the first test, students were given either a laptop (disconnected from the internet) or pen and paper.

They all listened to the same lectures and 30 minutes after the end of the talk, were examined on their ability to recall facts and how well they understood concepts.

The researchers found that laptop users took nearly twice as many notes as those who wrote by hand. However, the typists performed considerably worse at remembering the concepts they had been taught.

The report said: “While more notes are beneficial, at least to a point, if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop, the benefit disappears.”

In another experiment aimed at testing long-term recall, students took notes as before but were tested a week after the lecture. This time, the students who wrote notes by hand performed significantly better at both parts of the exam.

These two studies suggest that handwritten notes are not only better for immediate learning and understanding, but that they also help embed information for future reference.



The findings will be published in a paper called “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note-Taking” in the Psychological Science journal.

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