Does Handwriting or Typing Make You Smarter?

Are you the type who prefers to hand write all your notes during a lecture, or do you prefer to type it out?

New studies by researchers at Princeton University, Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles found out how we take our notes affects our information retention.

Most people would probably agree that handwritten notes seem more personable, and on top of it, also helps you keep your grammar and spelling skills in check (who doesn’t use Grammarly on their laptop to be lazy these days?).

BUT, if you have a laptop at hand, you can take more notes, hence be able to retain more of the information thrown around at the lecture hall. So which one is better?

Benefits of the Laptop

Most of us these days are familiar with lecture halls filled with a sea of Macbooks – because typing your notes is faster than writing them. Most students type at a rate of 33 words a minute, compared to handwriters who manage 22 words a minute. So pen-and-paper students sometimes lose out on key points during lectures.

In several studies, students who took notes with laptops performed slightly better and could recall more than their pen-pushing peers when they were tested immediately after the lecture.

But the effect doesn’t seem to last long: after just 24 hours, most of the computer transcribers have forgotten about what they typed. This is in contrast to those who wrote their notes by hand.

Benefits of Handwriting

In numerous experiments, pen-and-paper note-takers performed much better than their laptop peers even up to a week after a lecture when it came to retaining information for a longer period of time, and they tend to understand concepts better.

According to researchers at UCLA, those who took their notes longhand took fewer words, but appeared to think more intensely, grasp new ideas better, and digest the information more thoroughly. And it is this process that helps you learn better.

Note-taking is a cognitive process, and something about writing things down excites the brain.


If you’re a laptop user, the key here is to regurgitate the information by hand. It’s tempting to tap your notes out quickly, but your brain will soon get lazy and take in notes by rote.

If you’re already handwriting your notes, it might be worth asking your laptop-tapping peers for any extra notes you may have missed out.