There are two types of people in the world; people who say they hate studying, and liars. For some it might feel good to smash out a lil knowledge sesh but for the rest of us, studying is hours of fighting the urge to lay in bed, watch Netflix and have a nap. There’s heaps of ways to cut down on study time in the long run and keep those facts fresh in your brain… here’s the breakdown on three categories of study notes, and how you can make the most of them so you can smash your exams.
Written study notes
The go-to form of notes is your good old piece of paper with some stuff scrawled on it. But to make it easier on your memory, break info down into dot points. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by trying to remember paragraphs that are a page long. Summarising = success.
Handwriting notes can take forever, but it’s one of the best ways to ingrain the knowledge in your head. The pen connects your head to the page and if you’ve got the time, making summary sheets and flash cards is really going to help you in your exams.
There’s a tonne of ways to take written notes:
- Cornell Method: this is a way of condensing your notes. You draw up a notebook with two columns–one side for general notes and one side for summaries. This note taking system is kind of like when you used ‘look, cover, write, check’ in primary school to remember your spelling words but you can suss it out properly here.
- Mind-maps: super helpful if you want to organise and connect ideas on the page. Best avoided when you’re working with definitions, but great for classes that have lots of overarching themes (like English).
- Outlining: probably what you’ve already been doing. Headings are key here and any related information is organised below the relevant syllabus point. This one can take a lot longer than anything else, but if you can get through it you’ll have all the information you need in an easy to read format.
- Charting: helpful for classes where you’ll have a lot of dates and events to remember or need to memorise things like quotes or definitions. Basically, you draw up a table to hold all the key info you need.
The real key to written notes is to document your content in a way you’ll understand. You can copy stuff word for word from the textbook, but if you can’t understand something now, it’s probably not going to make sense later. While this might help you memorise things in a last ditch attempt to cram, writing your notes in your own words will help you more in the long run.
Visual study notes
Not a fan of writing out lines and lines of quotes and historic dates? Time to get creative. Visual notes work so bloody well when it comes to making something stick in your head, especially for those of us who hate re-writing the same thing over and over.
You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to making visual notes, and it’s really up to you with how creative you get (which will probably depend on how late you’ve left your revision). Try pie or column graphs for stats and numbers, tables for definitions or quote analysis but don’t make them too complex, otherwise you’re going to forget. These sorts of notes are perfect for roughly planning essays too, with dot points and arrows.
If you’ve got a lot of numbers or info to crunch, try colour-coding. Those rainbow highlighters aren’t just pretty, they can be super handy when it comes to organising your study information. Highlight formulas for so they’ll pop off the page when you’re doing a last-minute cram.
Audio study notes
When your hand’s about to fall off from writing a novel’s worth of notes, give audio a go. These notes are great for memorising quotes and dates, and also if you’re trying to fit an essay into your head. They’re also perfect if you’re feeling super unmotivated and just want to lay in bed–if you’re listening to your notes at the same time it definitely counts as studying.
Record yourself reading your notes on your phone where it’s nice and quiet and listen to them whenever you can; in bed, on the bus or the walk home from school. Sure, you might cringe at the sound of your own voice but once you get over the initial disgust it’s not all that bad and it’ll help you remember your notes.
You might be a written kind of person, a visual learner or an audio lover, but a mixture of all three study methods can be great. When you’re knee deep in study and feel like you’re just not making progress, try taking a break and come back with a different approach. It gives your notes some variety, as you’re remembering the information in different ways. Good luck!