How Top Students Make Great NotesStudies have shown these 5 tips are consistent with what top students do when making notes for later revision.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Notes aren’t the textbook. They are a summary. Look to highlight key information. You want your notes to help recall key information when you look at them. Here are few ways to keep your notes simple:
- Write short sentences and stick to keywords
- Use your words – by rephrasing, you’re brain is making a stronger connection to the information/concept. You’ll be surprised with how much ease you can later recall ideas.
- Make the layout of your notes subject specific. Not everything is linear.
FIND A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU
When taking notes there are lots of options: mind maps, flowcharts, flashcards, dot-points, tables- and the list goes on! Often how you layout information will depend on what you are trying to represent but it can depend what sort of a learner you are. Find a style helps you best, and then make it your own!
Remember it’s all about making “connections” with the material.
USE CHAPTER SUMMARIES, DIAGRAMS AND CHARTS
Often courses come with a recommend textbook, which contains summaries, charts, and diagrams. These are incredibly useful tools that help you conceptualize, understand and memorize! However, don’t stop there! Google, and YouTube have great visual examples for whatever you’re studying, and help if you don’t have a textbook.
Tip: Search your university online database for free Textbooks (available through library link) – Springer is a start. There’s usually a substitute textbook to the recommended one.
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH OUTDATED TECHNIQUES
This very important Re: productivity! For as long as we can remember it has been recommended to highlight, underline, and summarize information. A recent study undertaken by the Association of Psychological Science has examined the effectiveness of these, and as reported by the Times most of these are useless!
Highlighting and underlining led the authors’ list of ineffective learning strategies. Although they are common practices, studies show they offer no benefit beyond simply reading the text. Some research even indicates that highlighting can get in the way of learning; because it draws attention to individual facts, it may hamper the process of making connections and drawing inferences. Nearly as bad is the practice of rereading, a common exercise that is much less effective than some of the better techniques you can use. Lastly, summarizing, or writing down the main points contained in a text, can be helpful for those who are skilled at it, but again, there are far better ways to spend your study time. Highlighting, underlining, rereading and summarizing were all rated by the authors as being of “low utility.”
Being organized relates to the above point – don’t waste your time. The study by the Association of Psychological Science found that being organized, taking breaks, setting goals and spreading out your study is hugely effective! For more information on this see our section on How to study effectively.