How To Take Straight A+ Notes

15 April, 2019

With final exams approaching I wanted to post some advice I have for note taking that I've been collecting for a long time! I really enjoy taking notes in class and not because I always use them to study but because I consider each page to be a unique piece of art. In a page of notes I document that class period with information and stories/examples/doodles that help me remember the lecture as a whole and context surrounding it.

I know how much people love Studyblr and very very cute pages of notes with banners and adorable markers but this is a different approach. My notes have always had a very organized structure and I make use of titles, margins, etc. but don't focus on making them perfect because they only need to make sense for me. I know that method works for some people because it helps them pay attention to what they are learning about but I prefer to take down as much information as I can in a way that is informative and makes sense to me. If you have never really been into note taking and are looking for another approach, then these tips are for you!

be concise - Don't copy sentences down in class or from the powerpoint presentation! It's really important to listen to the information that is coming at you and then take only what you need from it for later. Don't write down definitions of words if you won't be able to remember the context surrounding it later. Only take down what will be meaningful for you and helpful when you come back to study!

write in the margins - They're SO underrated! I always add things I want to look up later in the margins of my notes. Sometimes it is about funny little conversations we have in class, recommended readings, or significant people we talked about and I try to make my notes like a diary of that class period. It can be difficult to highlight or take time to underline things when you are actually writing everything down so margins can also be a good way to separate and organize the page!

always title and date each page -  You'll thank me later.

doodle - We know that pictures solidify the concepts you're learning but they can also break up the page so when you come back to relearn, you are not just looking at a huge block of text. I draw examples, graphs, or anything mildly relevant and it makes note taking much more fun.

write for you - Write the things that you think you won't remember later and write knowing that these notes are only for you. Don't let other peoples opinions of your class or what you're learning affect what or how you write, and make sure that you prioritize what is going to help.

make use of headers/ indents/ bullet points - Make your page of notes like a real life microsoft word outline. Grouping like topics together is super helpful and you can even draw arrows back to the things you forgot about. Underline, circle, box, highlight, and bold words so you know what is important and your notes are more interesting to look at as well!

write in your own words - When teachers tell you to rewrite things in your own words, it actually helps. Write down the same things that you were learning in class but not in the same words so that your mind has time to understand it further in ways that make sense.

switch up your style - Sometimes write in short sentences, sometimes use all of the vocabulary you can. Cater the style of notes to the class you're taking and be sure to write as much or as little as you need.

I've seen a lot of unorganized notes and you don't always have to be perfectly neat for it to be really effective, but I hope this was a helpful place to start. With finals coming up soon I thought I would try to give some of my tips and also remind myself to work smart and not hard.

When taking notes try to be in the moment and comprehend the information before you write it down. When you come back later to look at your notes, it should be much easier to remind yourself about what was happening in class and they can refresh your mind so you can memorize it for the test! I have no idea how some people survive without taking any notes at all and I just know that writing really helps me focus. Also be sure to work in an environment that is quiet yet helps you be productive and I wish you the best!


Join the conversation!

  1. It's exam season for me too, and I'm currently in a weird state of being in denial/internally screaming :) your advice about writing notes is really good - I also find writing in the margins helpful, but I usually do it to help me remember a mnemonic device (so, for example, I'll write the first letter of each paragraph in the margin and make a mnemonic rhyme to help me with it). Might be a little out there, but it works for me.

    Hope your exams go well and, from one stressed student to another, keep up the good work!

    1. Writing in the margins is basically my favorite part of taking notes + that's a really good tip! Good luck on exams to you too !! 🍀🍀🍀


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