I became a fan of making notes after I saw many of my friends doing it. Prior to that, I primarily relied on reading, active recall, memorization, and practice to study. While those are effective methods, various scientific studies show that physically writing down points will help retain information quicker than reading. In fact, making notes facilitates the process of active recall, which is known to be the most effective studying method if done right. Therefore, it is really the best of both worlds! That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all formula: we all absorb information at varying paces. So, get to know your learning style, first and foremost, and then implement these tips as you see fit! On that note, let’s jump right into my tips for effective note-making!
1. Write down key points before making notes
It is important that you have a general idea of the key topics/concepts you want to cover in your notes before actually writing them, and this may look different depending on the subject. For instance, when I make notes for Biology/Chemistry, I like to write down the essential ideas of the concepts I want to include in my notes (this is usually found in the syllabus) so that I have a broad sense of what the concept is about before going into further details in my notes. Think of it like building a skeleton for your notes!
2. Explain details in your own words
Trust me, the amount of times I have lost track of what I am writing down is uncountable! It is very easy to get distracted from what you are writing about when you are copying it from another source verbatim. Remember, one of your main goals when making notes is to actively absorb information while you are writing them! So, writing notes down in your own words will help you engage yourself with the content and understand them better. Besides, being able to explain a concept in your own words is a very useful skill as it helps you answer exam questions that are not structured exactly in the way you learned them!
3. Color Code!
Did you know that color-coding helps the brain make connections with its associated object/content? This awesome practice can be applied to your note-making as well! It doesn’t have to be a kaleidoscope of colors (unless you want to, of course!), but organizing content with a few colors is advantageous as the color-content association helps retain information. Personally, I like to use two or three colors to differentiate concepts; for my mathematics notes, I write any formulas or processes to solve a problem in one color while using another color for the concepts themselves.
4. Be concise
As IB students, we are balancing six classes, CAS, TOK, EE, social life, sleep, all under the challenging environment of online learning. Therefore, most of us do not have the time to make exhaustive notes for all subjects. So, being concise is key to studying in a time-effective manner. While you do want to go into detail about the concept, I would not recommend writing them in large paragraphs. Instead, break those details into small chunks, or use bullet points to make them short and straight to the point. That way, not only are you saving time by avoiding unnecessary details, you are doing your brain a huge favor as breaking information down helps the brain consume these facts better!
5. Be creative!
Having a visual of the concept you are studying is very useful if you are a visual learner like me! Graphic organizers and diagrams are the only things getting me through the abstract concepts of TOK. Using notes as my creative outlet is how I connect myself with the content, especially if it is not a topic that I particularly enjoy. Do not hesitate to add personal touches such as innovative mnemonics, analogies, anecdotes etc. if they help you understand the material. Have fun with your notes!
And there you go! 5 tips for a fun and effective note-making experience! Making notes can surely become a daunting and time-consuming task initially; however, with consistent practice, you’ll definitely get the hang of doing them quickly and effectively! IBlieve in you!