Handwriting vs Typing: Which is The Better Note-taking Method?

Typing is in! Handwriting is out! More and more students prefer to use their laptops or even phones to make their notes, compared to good old fashioned pen and paper. Cambridge University is even considering using typed exams instead of written ones. But is that a good thing? Read on about the deeper mechanics behind handwriting vs typing to find out!


This is a modern world, where we take our phones and laptops around us everywhere. So, why not the lecture halls too? More and more professors are allowing students to take notes by typing. There are a number of advantages with typing. Firstly, most people type faster especially the younger generation. This means students are able to type notes more accurately, sometimes verbatim. However because students are just typing down everything lecturers say, studies show that they process it less deeply. There is lower retention on infrormation and a more shallow grasp on conceptual learning.

The fancy programs in computers or phones also mean digital notes are more organized and clean. With footones, review notes, spelling check and a standardized font, your notes will actually be clear and legible (especially if you have bad handwriting). You also don’t have to make a mess of your notes when you make a mistake. It is easier to fix, edit and search. There are also more tools and resources available for you. Don’t know something? Just search it on your laptop as you go.

However, that also means more distractions. Some people don’t have the discipline, to not check out social media while they are in the lecture hall. Studies show multi-tasking is not effective if you want to learn. It is also more reliable, you are less likely to lose your entire laptop with your notes in them than a notebook. The digital nature of it also makes it easier to be shared among classmates and friends.


Handwriting notes may not be as organized and clean as typing but there are a number of key advantages especially in the area in learning. People may tend to write notes slower but this may actually be a good thing. Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought. Because you write slower, you tend to find the most effective and simplest way to convey the lecture’s meaning. You for example, write down the key points instead of the entire sentence.

Thus, as opposed to typing where you just type word for word, you think it over and process it more deeply. The deeper processing makes you comprehend the material more easily. It requires greater focus and leads to notes that are more focused. Research shows this makes it better for conceptual learning, where you understand and engage with ideas instead of just factual memorization. But actually, is also good for memory in general.

In an experiment, participants who wrote instead of typed could recall more words. When you write the part of your brain involved in thinking and working memory is activated. Hence, you store and manage information more effectively with better retention.

Though, it could also be less accurate and organized since it is your own interpretation of the material. Handwriting is also obviously more suitable for when you are writing down mathematical formulas.

So, Which Is Better?

Sorry, digital lovers. In the end of the day, science shows that handwriting notes is better. A study found students who wrote notes performed better on tests than those that typed. If you want to learn better, handwriting your notes is the way to go. It leads to better memory, stronger conceptual learning and comprehension. In short, there is more cognitive processing with hand writing. But because it takes more effort, it could also be more draining. So, now that you know the strengths and weaknesses, pick when to use each appropriately.

If you want more information on study tips and tricks to help you excel, we have just the page for you. Be sure to check out our 5 Handy Revision Tips Before Exams and Top 5 Best Study Hacks backed By Science.

Leave a Reply

Start typing and press Enter to search