Research recently published in Psychological Science * has found that students who took notes by hand, as opposed to a laptop, performed better when asked questions about the factual content and concepts they had been taught.
Students watched a TED talk in a lecture environment and then took notes the way they normally would – some on a laptop and others with a paper and pen. Those using a laptop wrote more but when quizzed 30 minutes later they had understood less than those who took notes by hand. Those taking notes by hand also out-performed the others in both factual recall and concept understanding a full week later when quizzed on the topic again!
So taking notes by hand appears to encourage both more concise note-taking and encourage conceptual processing of the information at the time to assist you to understand and recall the information – in both the short and long-term.
With exams coming up, now might be the time to make a switch and try some old-fashioned pencraft.
* QUT students and staff can access the full text here: Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159-1168. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581