23 June 2017 ||
Over the last few semesters, I developed my own system of revising for exams. I’m a visual learner and writing things down in an organised way helps me loads. I posted pictures of my exam notes several times before (here, here, here, here) and I use this format for basically every class that requires an exam instead of an essay - so far: calculus 1, real analysis, maths education, english literature, and teaching german as a second language. Many people really liked this format, so here’s a step-by-step guide on how I do it!
- blank A4 paper
- one sheet of A4 grid paper
- a black gel pen by Kyocera (you can use any pen, but it should have a somewhat fine tip and should dry easily)
- Stabilo fine liners point88 (one or two matching colours per class)
- a set square (imo that works better than a ruler)
- a Faber-Castell 0.7 Grip 1347 pencil in 2B (you can use any pencil you like, but it should be HB or 2B because you need to erase it later)
- lecture notes/slides, class notes, homework, basically any info that is necessary for the exam
- Place the grid paper underneath the blank one. Make sure it doesn’t move when you write (if necessary, use paperclips to hold it in place).
- Draw margins and aid lines (in pencil - you’ll erase these later). Measure them out so they’ll be the same on every sheet. I usually do approximately 1cm margins left, right, and bottom, 2.5cm margin at the top for title and subheading, and three columns: left one with a width of 6cm, middle one with 5cm, right one with 6cm and 0.5cm blank space between them. (The grid paper underneath will help.) You can also only make two columns - four columns is gonna be very hard though because that won’t leave you with much space.
- Every time you have a list, bullet points, step-by-step guides etc, indent the bullets by another 0.5cm (draw another aid line for this). If you have sub-bullets, indent them another 0.5cm and so on.
- I use colours for bullet points (the actual points /arrows /numbers/ whatever), important names, something that I’m defining, subheadings, and important dates.
- Start writing your notes. Make them as condensed as you possibly can without leaving important points out. I try to go for one A4 page per lecture (aka around 28 powerpoint slides or more on one page), but sometimes I’ll also end up with two.
- Use abbreviations for words you use a lot, e.g. “+” for “and”, “p.” for “problem”, “str.” for “strategies”, “lit.” for “literature” etc.
- You can absolutely include important diagrams/graphs etc. Either print them out in the size you need or draw them by hand and in the colours you need. If it doesn’t fit in one column, spread it out over two columns and continue the separated columns underneath/above.
- Make your bullet points mean something. Use numbers, arrows, flags, lowercase letters, uppercase letters, dots - each can have a different meaning. Are you writing something where the order is important (numbers)? Are you giving examples (dots)? Are you mentioning separate important key points (flags)?
- I wrote my last summary page for maths education today and stopped the time - I needed 50 minutes for one lecture with 27 slides (new material because I hadn’t been there), including a small chocolate break.
4. Final Touches
- Check if the ink has dried. Check again.
- Carefully erase the pencil aid lines with a good eraser. make sure you don’t wrinkle the paper (unless you don’t care about that sort of stuff haha)
- If you want to, you can highlight key words (or whatever you like).
- Number your pages if you’ll write several. I always write down the number of the lecture (session 1, session 2 etc) in the subheading.
- Optional, but I do it: Make a copy of your sheet that you carry around with you. Nothing is as frustrating as spilling coffee over your revision sheets. Put the original in a plastic sleeve and keep it in a folder or binder somewhere, and study/revise only with the copy. Especially useful if you have others quizzing you with your summaries and they don’t care if they rip/wrinkle/ruin them lmao
I hope this was somewhat informative! You can tweak it of course, depending on what class you have and what will be on the exam. I hope you’re having a nice weekend! :)