Notes can possibly be the greatest thing that can happen to someone or easily the worst. If you’re someone that depends on notes (and why shouldn’t everyone?), you would understand what I mean by “less is more”. Overcrowding and adding information that you will never use – just as a safety blanket – only takes away the time that you could be revising the absolute necessities that you must absorb for that particular subject.
Notes should be structured and organised – I know that’s easier said than done, but the point is, once you get into a pattern/ routine of doing your notes – life will become so much easier. Important things to consider when constructing and creating your notes:
The format you are going to take for a specific subject – every subject is different and therefore requires a personalised structure/ template. For example, the never-ending definitions in subjects like Biology or Psychology deserve a more glorified space than the last few pages of your book. They should be placed in an area where it can be referred to frequently, so that studying isn’t a chore. The most simplest layout (and the one I use for more load bearing subjects like Bio) is allocating a new page for every topic and using different colours for definitions and notes.
One piece of advice – don’t bother colour coding its only going to make your life so much more difficult when you can’t find the correct colour and just have to jot something down. Just write with the colours that you have available at that given time. Use a different colour for definitions and different colours for other comments or side notes – it makes your book colourful and more appealing than a textbook (which in fact is possibly the most boring thing you would ever read – because of its continuous template – the absolute same colour coding throughout the entire 500 pages – dreadful!).
Also keep this is mind – allocating a suitable time during the week to complete and add to your notes. In class – your notes should consist of a bunch of scribbles, written down so swiftly because thats all time permits. When you arrive home, sit down and relax – if you feel like the notes you wrote in class are legible, then just underline/highlight and add some more things the teacher may have missed out on. On the other hand if your notes look absolutely worthless (TBH – me most of the time) – dedicate an hour (or two) to simply writing it again neatly and attractively so that you would actually consider going over it again. Make your notes something that you’re proud of! That in itself gives you the motivation you need to read over it – its one of the moments in your life where you actually feel awesome about something you’ve done.
Personally, I used to wait until the end of a chapter or a subtopic to begin my notes – this would mean that I had all the knowledge from classes at school but also have a chance to browse through the study guide (syllabus) and add any missing bits – trust me, this is where you would find those extra marks – you will be able to answer those questions that everyone comes out of a test and uses excuses like “We were never taught that” (guilty) or “I thought we didn’t have to know that for this topic” (the guilt continues) . EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW IS IN YOUR STUDY DESIGN/ SYLLABUS – USE IT!
Another key component of all my notes – including chemistry and could potentially be applied for subjects like history – is the use of pictures and diagrams! YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO REMEMBER A PICTURE/ DIAGRAM when your panicking in the middle of an exam rather than a paragraph of complicated words (haha sorta like this one). Try and draw them and colour em’ in – bring out the inner artist in you – if all else fails google images is your new best friend.
I prefer to write my notes in a notebook (a4 sized and ruled – a margin also would be appreciated but I can always just add that in on my own) – however there are some downsides to writing in books that can be easily avoided if you plan ahead.
The most common issue, I have found, with writing in a notebook is that there is no room left to add something that you have missed and in the mighty hurry that you’re in – you just add it alongside notes from a completely irrelevant chapter. This can be avoided – at the start of the term or before commencing a subject – section out the book according to the main topics or study areas. This will automatically give your notes a sense of where they must be written and where they can be found quickly. In addition to this – also leave some space (maybe a page or two) after every subtopic in that given main topic or study areas. This would prevent you from writing down your notes in places they shouldn’t go. If by the end of the year you don’t end up filling those pages – just use it as a summary area or ADD IN A DIAGRAM/ PICTURE!
Keep your notes concise and non-flowery – very hard for some people (as made evident by my writing). Dot points/ indenting is the best way to go but don’t forget in an exam/ test you can’t just list the dot points off – you need to write in sentences, therefore in preparation for that write your notes like you would answer an exam question – better yet, format your notes in a question answer style – this always comes in handy during revision.
Don’t worry about the neatness too much – remember, the purpose of your notes is solely for you to go over the concepts and facts that your head won’t let you absorb all at once. If you add too much – not only will it make your study time less effective – it may hurt your marks because nobody likes to read a thesis as an answer for question worth two marks. As long as you stick to the study design / syllabus know that you have covered everything and that you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
All the best with all your future endeavours!