Effective note-taking is essential to your success as a student, whether you are in high school or college. Note-taking helps you process information and retrieve it later to learn the information more quickly and perform better on tests and exams. Two popular styles of note-taking are linear note-taking and mind mapping. Though there are many differences in the two styles, neither is better than the other. It is important that you find the style of note-taking that best matches your learning style to improve academic performance.

Linear Note-Taking

Linear notes are the kind of notes that most people are used to taking. According to the University of Reading, linear notes include headings for main ideas and concepts, subheadings for main points within those ideas and numbering and bullet points. Linear notes can include key words, highlighting, underlining, and abbreviations. Most students write linear notes as a way to summarize information as they read or as they hear it in the classroom.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a more visual representation of information. Ideas are presented in a diagram form. The mind map starts with a main concept -- perhaps "The Scarlett Letter" -- and branches are drawn out to other concepts related to the main idea, such as the names of characters, major plot points or themes. Each idea typically has a circle drawn around it, and each of these are comparable to the headers and subheaders in linear note-taking. Mind maps can include images, words, symbols and other visual representations of concepts. The mind map can go all over the page in any direction.

Key Differences

The key differences between linear note-taking and mind mapping are not just in how the notes are taken, but in how they help students learn. According to "Litemind," mind maps more accurately reflect the process that your mind goes through when you are processing new information. Mind maps appeal to visual learners, but they can also have benefits for all types of students. The University of Reading says that mind maps help to focus your study sessions since they keep all the ideas on one page and limit rambling. Also, they show all the main points at a glance and reveal gaps in information that requires more research. Linear note-taking is better for rational and analytical thinkers. It also tends to be a quicker way of taking notes for most students.

Applications of Each

While both styles of note-taking can be applied to any topic, they each naturally work better for certain subjects. For example, mind mapping is great for showing relationships like story lines and character arcs in a novel or for scientific processes in a biology or physics class. Linear note-taking is best for more abstract or analytical concepts.