Study Advice

Tips for Taking Great Notes

By Moya Ellis - 6 minute read

It seems so simple to take notes but in reality, note-taking is only effective if you will actually use them and revise properly with them. A lot of the time, notes turn out to be massive paragraphs that you never end up rereading, making them useless. 

Here, we'll teach you how to make notes that you will actually use and help you study!

Write your own notes

This is nothing you haven't heard before but writing your own notes is a must! Using other people's notes may help you verify or get a better understanding of the topic but at the end of the day, you will really master the subject by writing them yourself. When you write your notes, you are able to properly consolidate your learning. Also by writing the notes in your own words, you will really develop your knowledge and will get a feel of how to explain certain terms or concepts when asked in a SAC or exam question. 

Titles

I really like putting titles on the top of each page or section of my notes. I will put in the title of the unit, area of study, and the topic name. For example, my first notes from VCE Legal Studies had the title "Unit 1, AOS1: Principles of Justice". At the end of the year, when you're prepping for your exams, you will realise you have forgotten what certain terms meant or a particular area of study. By clearly labeling each page of your notes with a heading, you will be able to find your notes quicker if you are looking for a particular topic. This is really something so simple but will save you so much time in the long run.

Put the study design in your notes

At the start of each area of study, I always printed out a picture of the dot points for that particular topic so I'd have it handy. This way I'd stay on track and make sure I was learning the relevant information that the VCAA/ QCAA specifies. It's also really beneficial to answer internal assessment or exam questions using the terminology from the study design so by having easy access to the study design, you will subconsciously pick up their language. I used to also use the dot points from the study design as a checklist where I'd be able to tick off the dot points I knew well and I could clearly see what I still needed to work on. The study design overall gives a nice overview of the course which is a great way to start your notes. 

Use dot points

Some people do prefer big paragraphs with lots of information but what works best for me is dot points. Dot points make sure you get straight to the point and don't add any unnecessary fluff. It also makes it easy to find information afterward when you are looking for a particular term or concept. Make all your notes as concise as possible so it is easier to retain the information. Another positive about dot points is that they appear less scary to read and learn than big chunks of writing. By using dot points you can really break everything down. When you're trying to learn a certain topic for a test, you can break down your preparations by aiming to learn 4-5 dot points per day. Another recommendation is to also use indented dot points for sub-points. The more you break up your notes, the easier they will be to use. 

Highlight

If you are not planning on using dot points (or even if you are), it is crucial that you highlight your notes. By highlighting, I don't mean highlight every second word but instead, be super selective and highlight the information you absolutely need to know. I usually like to highlight new words/terminology, dates, and quick definitions. I also sometimes found it helpful to use different colours when highlighting. I would label at the top of my notes what each colour meant. For instance, blue would mean a date, green is a term, yellow is a definition and pink is language from the study design or language my teacher recommends we use. 

By highlighting key points, you will again be able to easily access information right before a SAC or at the end of the year. It is not to mean that all the unhighlighted information is unnecessary but it just means you should learn the highlighted information first. 

Tables, images, and diagrams

To keep yourself engaged, it is very important to change up the style of your notes. I sometimes write normal dot point notes, other times I'll add in a table or find a picture to accompany the notes, and occasionally, I'll make a progression map or diagram to explain a certain concept. Different topics lend themselves to different types of notetaking. However, I think it is important that when possible to add in variation. Often if I made my own tables or diagrams, I would colour code all the writing and imagery so it would make it even more visually appealing and thus more interesting for me to read. 

Glossary

At the back of my notes, I like to put in a glossary of all the new terms I learned throughout the year. Throughout my notes, when it comes up I will have the term and a definition but I also like having all the new terms all in one place as well. In my glossary, I'll have all the terms, a very quick definition, and where this term comes up in the study design. For example, I'll have for VCE Psychology "central nervous system - a network of neurons that regulate, coordinate and control the major functions of the body. Comprises of the brain and spinal cord. Unit 3, AOS1". 

Hardcopy notes

I know some people prefer hardcopy notes which is great. For those people, I'd actually recommend in class (unless you are a really fast writer) that you type up your notes and then when you get home or in your free periods, you handwrite your notes neatly. Often in class, most people type and therefore the teacher goes at a faster pace. If you are handwriting in class, you may end up missing information or having messy notes which are illegible. If your notes are messy you aren't going to want to reread them throughout the year. Take your time at home writing your notes in your own words with nice headings, highlighting and dot points. 

Typed notes

I personally prefer typing my notes just because I love to be able to go back and constantly change them and adapt it according to practice questions I complete, but I know it is so easy to simply take down notes in class and then leave it at that. However I urge you to look again at your notes after class and rewrite them on a new document using all the above steps. A lot of the time, I split my screen and on one document, I'll have class notes and then on another document, I'll have my revised notes. This way you properly retain the information rather than letting it go in one ear and out the other as soon as you walk out of the classroom. 

 

If you're really proud of your notes & want to share them with the Studyclix community.

We hope this was helpful and of course, if you have any questions or concerns, just message us!

The Studyclix Team