Many students who are good at note taking don't excel on exams and tests because the method they are using is not appropriate to the way their brain works. While a vast majority of people take linear notes, more than 80 percent of people are visual and need to use mind mapping to truly grasp new knowledge. Learn the difference between both styles before determining the one that might be best for you.

Linear Note Taking

Traditionally, linear note taking is the technique taught to students as a way to learn and remember information given during lectures or in readings. Linear note taking is down by taking down information line by line as it is spoken in the case of a lecture, or described when reading a book. This type of note-taking practice is easy to identify by highlighted words in textbooks and pages after pages of transcripts from lessons. Students are taught that linear note taking is simply done by transcribing what is being said. These notes are to be re-read and re-written until the students knows the material enough to feel ready for testing or to learn more about the subject matter.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping originated in the 1960s when a few psychologist gathered to do some research not about how to learn faster and better, but rather on the processes our brains go through to learn. That's when they learned how our brain needs both its creative and logical sides to work together for optimal learning. A mind map is a "whole brain" note-taking method that consists of indicating a central topic at the middle of a page along with a central image, and then attaching sub-branches to this main topic that also contains key words and images. By combining images and words, a mind map forces the brain to use both our right and left sides in learning and understanding new material.


The only real link between liner note taking and mind mapping is that they are both ways to remember new knowledge and take note of what a lecturer or author is trying to teach. Both methods require only very little material --- pen and paper --- but that is where the similarities end.


The major difference between both note-taking methods is that linear notes focus on words and pre-established structures, while mind maps focus on images and colors. Because the first relies heavily on rational thinking, only the left side of the brain is involved, while mind mapping allows for creative and logical thinking to meet and work together. Linear note-taking is the traditional method taught in most schools, while mind mapping is only just starting to become popular, mainly among adults, although children of every age can use the method.