Wondering how to write kickass study notes so your assessment results will actually improve?
Well, we’ve got you covered! Here are 4 simple strategies on how to write effective and useful study notes.
Let’s get started!
Tip #1: Write Your Notes Ahead of Time
The key to making sure your notes are actually helpful is by writing them ahead of time. You see, it’s so easy to fall behind school work when you’re juggling 6 or so subjects.
What often happens is that when you realise you have an assessment in a week or two, you’re manically writing study notes, when you should be using this time to do practice responses!
There are two benefits to writing your notes ahead of time:
- When you have an assessment coming up, you don’t need to worry about writing notes and covering a huge syllabus of content, because your study notes will be all set for you!
- You’ll be able to focus better on learning content prior to classes. This way you’ll be able to ask better questions and know which areas you’ll need extra help with from your teachers.
Fun fact: Doing your notes a week early is actually a common study strategy amongst state ranking students!
Tip #2: Use the Syllabus as the Foundation for your Notes
Using the syllabus as the basis of your notes is vital, however, it’s just as important to research and gather material beyond this!
Essentially, the syllabus is everything that you can be examined on, so those are the areas you need to focus and study on. Textbooks often have extra information in them that aren’t directly relevant, so it’s always important to come back to those syllabus dot points and make sure you stay on track.
The syllabus is structured in a way that organises course content, so it works as an excellent skeleton or scaffold for your notes, which makes sure you’ve covered all the relevant areas and you’re set to go for your assessment!
As we mentioned earlier, you also need to go beyond the syllabus! Now that doesn’t mean going on a tangent, it means using sources other than that textbook or website your teacher gave you.
A lot of the time, a certain textbook has its strong points, but also its weak points, which is why finding at least one or two other additional sources will help fill gaps in your knowledge and create really solid notes overall.
Tip #3: Make Your Notes Look Beautiful
Now this might sound a little futile, but hear us out!
Imagine you’re researching and you click on a website with pictures, bolded words, sub paragraphs and spaced out text — you think, ‘Alright this might be a good source.’
Then, you come across that website with blue hyperlinks, Times New Roman in a size 9 font, no paragraphs and 0.5 line spacing. More often than not you’re going to read 2 words before you go find another website — that’s because this sort of messy and clunky structure creates, what we call ‘cognitive overload’.
Now have this exact same mentality with your notes! Make them appealing, so you’ll want to pick them up, read them and use them. If you use simple language and spaced out text, your notes would become much more accessible and reduce cognitive loads.
Here are some key things you can do to make your notes visually appealing, if not, beautiful:
- Small paragraphs
- Focus on the main points of information — don’t waste your time writing background content or things you already know!
- Use hierarchy — dot points, tables, numbers
- Include visuals — make your notes appealing and summarise information into concise mind maps, cycles, pyramids and flowcharts
- Increase your ‘White Space to Text Ratio’ — essentially, spread your notes out and don’t force everything onto one page. This comes back to the whole website appeal of having spaced out, well spread and ‘beautiful’ looking information!
Tip #4: Integrate Past HSC Questions
Now last but, most certainly, not least is including exam style questions in your note making habits. This is a crucial and significant differentiating factor, as only about 1% of students really do this — so be that 1%!
Essentially, search up some past HSC questions or papers and put them at the bottom of each relevant section of your notes. This way you can practise using your study notes to write responses.
You might even realise when answering this question that you don’t have enough information to write about a particular topic. This is where you can go back in and fix up your notes, making sure they cover everything and are actually applicable to questions.
What happens way too often is that we write our study notes, sit an assessment, and realise you can’t seem to grasp any of the information you need! By having HSC style questions in front of you, alongside your notes, you can establish whether or not your notes are effective.
You’ll also realise that by the end you’ve written a whole bunch of past papers and you won’t even feel it because you did it all gradually — section by section!
There you have it, 4 simple strategies to write kickass study notes, so you can be on top of your game even before you get that assessment notification. So what are you waiting for? Start writing your notes!
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Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.