Believe it or not, taking notes that help students review for exams is actually crucial to getting good grades. The problem with most students (especially in upper secondary) is that they don’t know how to take notes properly.
As a result, their notes are often illegible, incomplete, and just downright useless when it comes time to revise. Even if you attend physics tuition or classes regularly, if your notes aren’t up to par, you’ll still struggle come exam time.
So how do you take notes that are actually helpful come exam time? Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to getting the grades you want:
Step 1. Start with a basic outline.
Have you ever tried to read through a list of bullet points and found yourself completely lost? It happens to the best of us. Even the smartest students can get bogged down by a page full of tiny, cramped handwriting.
When you’re taking notes, always start with a basic outline. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a simple list of the main points you want to cover. Once you have your outline, you can start filling in the details.
How do you create an outline?
It’s actually quite simple. Let’s say you’re taking notes on a lesson. Your outline might look something like this:
- Main points of the lesson
- Examples used in the lesson
- Important formulas
Say you’re taking notes in O Level Physics Tuition, and your teacher is going over how to calculate acceleration. Your outline might look something like this:
- What is acceleration?
- How do you calculate it?
- What formula do you use?
- When would you use this formula in real life?
- Can you think of any other examples of acceleration?
Step 2. Make use of headers and subheaders.
Once you have your outline, it’s time to start filling in the details. But instead of just writing down everything your teacher says verbatim, try to make use of headers and subheaders.
This will help you organize your thoughts, and it will make reviewing your notes much easier come exam time.
How do you make use of headers and subheaders?
For example, let’s say you’re taking notes on how to calculate acceleration (again). Under the main heading “How do you calculate it?,” you might have subheadings like “What formula do you use?” and “When would you use this formula in real life?”
Not only will this help you organize your thoughts, but it will also make it easier for you to find specific information when you’re reviewing your notes.
Step 3. Use simple language.
Even if the teacher or tutor is using complicated jargon, try to use simple language in your notes. The goal is to make your notes understandable to you, not to anyone else. Write as if you’re explaining the concepts to a friend.
This will help you understand the material better, and it will make reviewing your notes much easier. If you need to, you can always go back and ask the teacher to explain something in simpler terms. But if you can understand your notes, you’ll be one step ahead when it comes time to review.
Step 4. Write down examples.
Whenever the teacher gives an example, make sure you write it down in your notes. Examples are a great way to understand complicated concepts and can be really helpful during exam time.
If you can’t think of any examples yourself, don’t worry – just write down the ones the teacher gives. You can always come up with your own later.
What examples should you write down?
It depends on the lesson. If you’re taking notes on how to calculate acceleration, you might want to write down examples of how to use the formula in real life. For example, you could write down how to calculate the acceleration of a car or how to calculate the acceleration of a falling object.
The more examples you have, the better. So if you have extra time, try to come up with some examples of your own.
Step 5. Highlight key points.
As you’re taking notes, try to highlight the key points. This could mean underlining important words, circling key formulas, or drawing arrows to show how one concept relates to another.
The goal is to make your notes as visual as possible. This will help you understand the material better and make reviewing your notes much easier.
How do you know which to highlight?
Again, it depends on the lesson. But in general, you should highlight anything that seems important, anything that you’re having trouble understanding, and anything that you think will be useful come exam time.
For example, in Sec 3 and 4 physics, many concepts build on each other. So if you’re having trouble understanding one concept, it might be helpful to highlight how it relates to the others. Use different-colored highlighters to show how different concepts are related.
If you’re unsure what to highlight, just mark anything that stands out to you – you can always go back and un-highlight something later. Check out the 9 Effective Ways To Master (or Survive) Sec 3 Physics!
Step 5. Use pictures, diagrams, and charts.
Words are great, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand of them. If the teacher or your good physics tutor draws a diagram or chart on the board, copy it in your notes.
This will help you understand the material better and make reviewing your notes much easier.
When should you use pictures, diagrams, and charts?
Use them whenever you can – they’re a great way to visualize complicated concepts. But in general, you should try to use them when the teacher is explaining how something works, when the teacher is giving examples, or when the teacher is showing how one concept relates to another.
For example, if the teacher is explaining how a car engine works, you might want to draw a diagram of the engine in your notes. If the teacher gives examples of using a certain formula, you might want to make a chart with different values plugged into the formula.
The more pictures, diagrams, and charts you have in your notes, the better. So if you have extra time, try to come up with some of your own.
Step 6. Use symbols and abbreviations.
If you’re running out of space, or the teacher talks too fast for you to keep up, try using symbols and abbreviations. This will help you save space and write faster.
For example, you could use the symbol “&” for “and” the symbol “>” for “greater than,” or the symbol “<” for “less than.” You could abbreviate words like “physics” as “Phys” or “tuition” as “tut.”
The key is to use symbols and abbreviations that you understand, which will also be helpful during exam time.
NOTE: Symbols and abbreviations can be helpful, but don’t overdo them. If you find that you’re using more symbols and abbreviations than actual words, you’re probably not writing enough detail.
The goal is to balance writing too much and too little. So if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of writing more.
Step 7. Make use of color coding.
Learning to color code your notes can be a game-changer. It’s a great way to organize your thoughts, and it can help you review for exams more effectively.
For example, you could use different colors to represent different concepts or different colors to show how one concept relates to another.
You could also use color coding to highlight important information or to make your notes more visually appealing. The possibilities are endless, so experiment with different color schemes until you find one that works for you.
Notes are a great way to review for exams, but only if they’re done right. So the next time you sit down to take notes, remember the steps in this guide. If you follow them, you’ll be on your way to taking better notes – and getting better grades!