I see these posts of notes that are so pretty and organized. Do you have any tips on note taking?
Sorry for the delayed response. I do have tips for note taking but I will just say that note taking is very much individual. What works for me may not work for you at all! I shall give you mine, nonetheless.
Okay, so, I take two different kinds of notes: revision notes and class notes. I will start with class notes and then go into revision notes.
Before taking notes:
- I suggest you purchase a set of coloured pens, black writing pens, a ruler, post-it-notes, margined and lined paper, a HB pencil and a decent quality A3 paper pad (over 100gsm).
- Here are the links to those items which I use myself and would recommend. Those in bold are the ones I recommend unreservedly:
- Sharpie Fine Pens;
- Stabilo Fineliner Pens;
- Post-it Notes: Bubbles;
- Post-it Notes: Arrows;
- Post-it Notes: Index Box (for annotating literature);
- Index Stickers;
- Stabilo Neon Highlighters;
- Ryman Lined Refill Pad;
- A3 Paper Pad (180gsm);
- Xerox A4 Paper (100gsm);
- Pentel Energel Ink Writing Pens;
- Staedtler HB Pencils;
- Helix Ruler.
- My class notes are often very rough, not necessarily neat, and brief. However, I rectify them at some point a little later on. This is because we cover so much content in any one class and that makes neat note-taking somewhat impossible. I’d rather I paid attention than spent tonnes of time making cute, neat, notes in class time.
- You will get much more from the revision end of this answer because my college provides us with note packs on each lesson or rather, each topic. The only one of my subjects where this is not largely the case, is English Literature. However, for the others, we spend much more time listening and annotating than copying things down and writing our own notes.
English Literature Class Notes:
Each of us has a clean copy of the texts studied and we spend much of our class time either planning essays, reading and annotating the copy of the text, or listening to our teacher’s explanations of various things and discussing said things with each other and the teacher. You get a lot of hand-outs for English because it’s more about taking in the vast amount of information you need for the exam and getting to know the texts as opposed to actually wasting time making pretty notes… if you catch my drift?
Annotating the copy is where you can be colourful, neat and creative. I use index tabs and the post-it notes index box to make my annotations, using coloured pens and colour coding various literary techniques, writing general notes in black ink. For example: I may circle metaphors in a certain chapter, in one colour - say green - and will not, therefore, use green at all for anything else in the rest of that chapter. That way, your mind gets used to seeing these and helps the content to stick. Moreover, I use bubble/arrow post-it notes to summarise the chapter on the final page of each, making concise bullet-points pertaining to the key parts of the chapter.
Here is an example taken from my copy of Fitzgerald’s, ‘The Great Gatsby’:
History Class Notes:
In History, our teacher provides us with a note-pack each lesson. These consist of a comprehensive page or so of narrative-like notes on the titled topic. Then, there are power-point slides and note-lines for the next few pages and following this, is a glossary of terms, events, and a list of key names. Then finally, we have a few documents which are often very useful for putting things in context and for precise detail you can use as evidence in essays.
Each class, we are dictated notes and we write these down in the lined note spaces on the powerpoint presentation pages. They look like this (for Vietnam - AQA HIS2Q):
Religious Studies: Philosophy and Ethics Class Notes:
We are given lesson packs for each topic, consisting of academic/narrative-like prose on the topic content. We then go through the topic, engaging in in-depth discussions about the content of the notes and then I go on to make my own, condensing the detail into need-to-know ‘stuff’. Here is an example of both the pack and my own work:
- My revision notes are made through multiple things. I ask for computerised copies of all note packs, editing them through the Preview software on Apple Mac’s; I make flash-cards; I write key information on A4 paper and blutac them to the wall; I write essays over and over again; I make mind-maps on A3 paper; I highlight my note-packs; I read my texts and note packs and use audio books to accompany my re-reads of the texts for English; I watch the movie versions of the books; I use The Student Room and Tumblr to bounce off of others; I use past papers.
- I don’t actually like writing vibrant revision notes, I find it distracting and blurring rather than helpful. I prefer the notes to be more black and whie with the odd bit of colour from Sharpie Pens.
English Literature Revision Notes:
For English, essays are the best thing you can do aside from really getting to know the texts well, perhaps re-reading them. Even if the exam is open-book, you really should know the text as well as you should if the exam was closed-book. I also used mind-maps to help with English as I feel it’s information you need to keep refreshing and reviewing until it sticks as English is one of those subjects you have to grow with and develop as you go along.
Here’s an example of a rough mind-map/poster and an essay I got an A on:
History Revision Notes:
For History, I highlight key information I believe will be of use to me in an essay, specifying which kind in annotations made to each highlighted section. I then condense these into key information on flash cards. I also make some small mind-maps on flash cards for the more general information, like facts and figures, and put some key information on A4 sheets and blutac them to the wall in my bedroom. History was the subject I felt the most prepared for and worked months in advance and was lucky in doing so as A-Level History had an incredibly tough year this year.
Also, it goes without saying that I wrote a lot of essays for history! So, here are photographs of each individual thing - flash cards, an essay, a poster, annotations in my textbook and my note packs:
Religious Studies: Philosophy and Ethics Revision Notes:
For RS, I annotate electronic copies of my notes, condense these down into flash cards, and make A4 mind-maps. I also, as you can guess, write essays and then get them marked. Take a look at these:
My general advice is to experiment with what works for you; use note-taking as a means of revisiting information from class, focusing on listening in class rather than writing; and make very brief, rough notes in class. Understand the topic because if you don’t - your notes are useless anyway which is why I always say, spend class listening. Finally, keep your notes clear, concise, and organised.
I hope this helps,