How to Make Good Study-notes

Good study-notes are crucial for effective learning and preparation for the exam. The common sources of learning for a student are class lectures, books and online study resources. Every student learns from these sources and prepares themselves for the exam. Study-notes are the extract of important points from these sources of learning and help you learn your topics easily, effectively and speedily. In addition to their help in the revision of courses in normal routine during an academic session, they act as the real game-changer when it comes to making preparation for an exam. During exam days, students generally have a very short time to cover a lot of courses for their papers. Study-notes help them to cover their courses very speedily and perfectly. Since they provide the most important points, the student understands each topic in its entirety without reading the whole book.

However, the point is that the study-notes should be made in a way that they can serve as a useful source for achieving the intended academic goals. Therefore, it is very important to understand the correct techniques of making useful study-notes. In this article, we will discuss various aspects of good study-notes as well as techniques to make them.  

  Characteristics of good study-notes

The characteristics of good study-notes are as follows:

  1. Easy to understand and learn.
  2. It saves your time.
  3. It contains the important ideas from class lectures, books and online resources.
  4. It is a comprehensive extract of learning from different study materials, so you don’t need to read many books.
  5. It enables you to present your answers in an exam in the best way.
  6. Being made by you, you feel confident about it and acquainted with it.
  7. It can be easily revised when needed.
  8. The process of making study-notes is itself helpful in learning. When you write down the important points on paper while you are studying a topic, this process itself makes it easier for you to learn the topic as compared to simply reading the topic without writing anything. This is because when you write the points while you study, you give your brain some time to process and store the learnt information.  

  Preparing good study-notes

Making useful notes is a two steps process: 1) collecting points from class lectures, books and online study resources, and 3) giving a proper shape to the collected points to make the final study-notes. These two steps are explained as follows:

  Collecting notes during class lecture

  1. Teachers are experts of their subject who have gained their knowledge through studying books and teaching them for years. The learning, that teachers provide, can generally not be acquired by students simply by reading their books. Similarly, the teacher’s learning is not from one book, they have generally studied many books and provide you with the extract of different books. The purpose here is to reflect on the importance of taking notes from teachers’ lectures.
  2. You should have a notebook or loose pages and a pen while attending a class lecture to take notes.
  3. While a lecture is delivered, be attentive and focused on the lecture.
  4. Listen to the ideas shared by your teacher very carefully. Write down the important pieces of information shared by your teacher.
  5. In most lectures, the teachers provide some points for conceptual learning which should be noted down.  
  6. Pay more attention to terminologies, definitions and jargon shared by your teacher and note them down with you.
  7. The teacher may share some important information that helps in understanding the topic but may not be present in your coursebooks. These types of information should be noted down.
  Collecting notes from books and other study resources

  1. Books and guides constitute a huge source of learning. Similarly, nowadays, the internet is widely used for accessing online study resources.
  2. Using different sources (e.g., book, guide, and internet) for learning the same topic is the best approach to learn the topic in its entirety.
  3. If you are using these different sources for learning, your study-notes should include all the ideas (important points) gained from these different sources. This way, your study-notes will present the complete picture (learning) of a topic. This ensures your high score in the exam because teachers assess you based on how many aspects of the topics you have discussed in your answer.
  4. Using different sources for making study notes also helps you because you will have everything at one place, and you would not need to study all these sources again.
  5. Whether you study one source or many sources, the important thing is the art of taking study-notes. You have to study the source with concentration and attention. Write down every important piece of information but everything from the source may not be necessarily noted down for making study-notes. Your study-notes should not be a straight copy of your book and should not include unnecessary long explanations. It should only include the important points. With this in mind, you should also be careful not to skip the important piece of information.
  6. As noted earlier, that you do not have to include everything in your study-notes. This means to include the pieces of information which makes the crux of the topic as well as helps you easily remind of its relevant explanation (even if that is not included in study-notes) and help you understand the topic completely when you will use them for study in future.
  7. While making study-notes, you must consider the terminologies, definitions, names of the types of things and names of specific stages involved in the topic
  8. The study-notes should be made with the exam in mind. You have to consider these points which are likely to be asked in the exam.  

  Giving proper shape to the collected notes

Since a student collects points from class lectures, books and other sources, these points are collected at different times and on different pages. Similarly, the points collected from a lecture may be in a dispersed form on a page because, during the lecture, the student is primarily focused on learning the lecture. Therefore, these points should be brought into a proper shape to be used as useful study-notes, as explained below:

  1. The purpose is to bring your dispersed points together.
  2. You may write your study-notes as paragraphs or bullet points.
  3. Most school or college students prefer to write their study-notes as paragraphs whereas some university students prefer writing them as bullet points.
  4. Whichever style you prefer, present your points in a proper sequence.
  5. Use headings and sub-headings for points so they can be distinguished as separate topics or parts of the topics. Better use different colors for headings and sub-headings.
  6. Add diagrams and tables in your study-notes where needed.
  7. One important aspect is that bring your study-notes in a shape which helps how to present your ideas in an exam. In the exam, you should present your ideas in an impressive way to score high in the exam. This means, what sequence should be used to present the ideas and which ideas to be included. For instance, it helps you understand if it is better to present ideas by grouping them and giving them headings and if a conclusion needs to be drawn at the end of the answer.  
  8. Some pieces of information should be highlighted with the help of a highlighter to be able to prepare them for MCQs.
  9. Writing study-notes in your own handwriting is better (than writing them on a computer), however, the writing should be clear and easily readable in future.

  Saving your study-notes

  1. It is better to use a notebook for writing your study-notes rather than loose pages.
  2. If you are using loose pages, give each page a number, and save them in a folder.
  3. Keep them in a safe place so you may not lose them, because they are your valuable resource that will help you achieve your academic goals.