Enhance your note taking

Enhance your note taking.jpg

It’s come to that time of year where students frantically pour over textbooks in preparation for exams. 

Revision notes, highlighter pens and plenty of paper scattered across the living room is to be expected. These are just some of the methods used to ensure information stays in your mind. 


That’s it really. But with so many alternative methods of note-taking out there, are you using the one best suited to you? If you’re a little lost and don’t know what you’re doing wrong, or just need to freshen up your technique, here’s a few tips to help find a system that works for you.


If you read passively while studying you may find your eyes ‘glazing-over’, without registering what it actually says. If this sounds like you, then lengthy revision notes probably aren’t for you! Your way of note-taking must be fresh, interesting and if possible, fun.

Instead, you might want to consider alternative methods of taking notes, such as the Cornell system, mind mapping and Smart Wisdom. The Cornell system (to the left), which uses a grid to separate information, is well-loved by students, while mind-mapping is a fun and often colourful, way to take notes during lecturers. It can be time consuming, but if you manage to find a way of retaining information and improving productivity, it will be well worth it.


There’s nothing worse than random notes scattered across a page. The more organised you are, the more likely you are to remember, and subsequently retain the information. The basic principle with notes is to keep them short, snappy and include enough memorable keywords to recall them easily when reading them back.


Taking notes in lectures can be a bit of a test in itself. Trying to absorb the information then translate it into note form for each slide can be a challenge. So unless you’re experienced in shorthand, cut down on the amount you write and listen more. Making notes in bullet point form is a good way to make quick fire notes, but remember to look at the lecture slides later to refresh your memory.


Now for the most important technique; take breaks in your schedule. Time out from study can be incredibly rewarding as it gives you the time to clear your mind and reflect on the work you have put in. This also staggers your workload, making all those sheets of paper and pending revision notes manageable.  

This is only scratching the surface with the variety of techniques people use to take notes. Some people use highlighter pens, others use an array of coloured post-it notes. We’ve tried to keep it simple, but the bottom line is your revision strategy has to reflect the way you think. So keep taking those notes, good luck with your exams – and breathe!