Sit up and take note(S)

Highlighters, post-its and pencils, oh my! Note taking is an essential part of learning, at least until technology makes some pretty hi-tech advancements. Taking notes is more than merely putting pen to paper. With a plan in place, you could be well on your way to great ATAR results.

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It’s a scary thought that on average, we forget almost 40 per cent of what read or hear within 24 hours. Literally in one ear and out the other. Having a notebook handy helps us to retain far more, but only we use some note-taking smarts. Copying things down word for word is a waste of time, where jotting essential information helps you to engage with it. Once you’ve made some notes, re-read them and discuss them with your friends, family and teachers.

Find your own way

The first step to successful note-taking is to find a format that works for you. The Cornell System suggests dividing your page into sections, popping the topic/objective and a question at the top, then creating two columns. A smaller one on the left is where you’ll jot questions to consider later, while the larger one on the right is for you to paraphrase what you hear or read. Bullet points, phrases, and lists help compress vital information into the small space. Underneath, there’s room to provide a summary, answering the objective at the top. This system relies on revision and interaction with your material.

Some people retain information better through the physical act of putting pen to paper. Others touch-type snippets on to their laptops. Whichever option you find more effective and comfortable will likely work best. A combination can be beneficial. Type your notes then to reinforce muscle memory, handwrite the summaries, scribble diagrams, and highlight to your heart’s content.

If you haven’t summarised your notes into dot points, have you really studied? This time-honoured study hack makes it easier to re-digest the information later on. Try to strike a balance with length; too short and it won’t make sense, too long, and it’s probably not worth doing.

Make your notes work

Revising your notes is what makes them useful in the first place. A suggestion is to create a schedule that factors in time for this each week. By revisiting your notes, you’ll gain greater insight into your topic, and you’ll more easily retain important dates, formulas and quotes. “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein.

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