If you’re studying for GCSEs, A Levels or any other college or distance learning course, you’ll be encouraged by your tutors or teachers to take notes. Many people consider note taking to be a fairly pointless task and go about copying out large chunks of text word for word, hoping that they will magically absorb the information. This is not the case, however. Note taking can be a very useful means of learning, and it can also be a fantastic revision tool for exams and assignments. Follow these steps, and you can take and use notes that will set you on the path to success!
1. Read the text
Many people make the mistake of beginning to take notes when they first open the book or click on that link. Read the text, then read it again. On the second reading, take time to think about what information is being given, and question any opinions or judgements.
Skim through the text, highlighting key words and phrases. Do not highlight whole paragraphs. Instead, choose one to four word sections that sum up what the writer is trying to convey.
3. Write and evaluate
Write your key words and phrases on a blank page, drawing a circle around each one. Leave space around each one for annotation. Re-read each word or phrase in turn; then write around it any other words or phrases you can use to explain what it means, and why it is significant. You should generate additional ideas to help you in this by referring to textbooks or reputable websites.
4. Organise your notes
Make sure each page has a date and reference to the text you have been using. Organise these pages into files or folders using dividers, so that you can easily find what you’re looking for.
5. Use your notes
When you have an exam looming on the horizon, you want to be able to use your notes as study aids. Re-read what you’ve written, then do some more research and reading around the topic. Add to your notes as you go along. This helps you to re-establish concepts and ideas and to further your knowledge of the subject. Then, when exams are just around the corner, use your notes to create flash cards. The aim is to condense your notes into the most important facts or quotations. Write just one on each card, using relatively large letters (and bright colours if possible). Make a maximum of ten cards for each exam. When you are panicking on the morning of your exam, it will be reassuring to be able to read through your flash cards. Keep them with you right up until you enter the exam hall; and they’ll act as a great confidence boost.
I’m a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I’ve been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I’ve also written on every other topic under the sun!