Study Tip: Organize Your Notes

Alright, it’s time to sit down and prepare for that test. Situate yourself at a library table or your plushy futon, whichever locale you prefer, and take out all necessary learning materials. But when you open up that notebook of pages you’ve been scribbling on all semester, why isn’t that information resonating with you? Probably because it’s nearly impossible to logically comprehend several random bits of inner-thoughts and copied-down chalkboard bullet points at a first-read. Unless you happen to be an organizational champion and have been keeping those notes neat and sensible as you created them throughout the year, it’s likely they could use a little revamping now. Here are some great tips you may want to check out on how to find your study space.

If the first-attempt at note-taking could be comprehended successfully, we wouldn’t really need the study process. You would just naturally retain all of the information throughout the semester as you write it down and hear the teacher explain it. However, that is clearly not the case, and you do need that study process later on. It would only make sense that you need to examine these notes once again and rearrange them in a way that makes sense to you. So why do so many students blow that off and just re-read the notes they have taken as a tired, bored student every Monday-Friday morning? When you stop and look at it that way, it all starts to come together. The version of you who was in that class every week just copying things down and waiting to leave isn’t the person who should be preparing you for the exam. It’s the determined, studious, motivated version of you now who should have control. That person is the one who can produce excellent, easy-to-digest notes. Here are some great tips on how to take notes in a college lecture that you may want to check out as well.

How do you organize these notes? It’s a fairly simple procedure:

#1: Break them up into categories – Identify what big picture ideas the teacher wants you to know for the exam. Go through them one by one and gather up specific bullet points in your notes that cover them. Maybe start off by highlighting them with a color code for each category and then moving on to write them on different pages. Yes, re-working in such a way is a pain and may seem unnecessary, but think about how much easier it will be to grasp the knowledge needed for each category when it’s all in one place. Going back and forth between ideas as you scan down a page is not helpful and does not lead to a complete awareness of the material. Trying to process information that way is just going to confuse you and make you forget things before you even finish looking at them. Categories are essential for a clear and logical appearance of your notes that will, needless to say, be much easier on the eye.

#2: Re-write all necessary points – Again, many of the notes you originally wrote might not be so easy to study, in the sense that you were probably just copying down phrases you saw or heard as quick as possible. Give every note a fair chance and read it with an open-mind, just to see what your brain makes of it. If it makes sense, great! Keep it the way it is. If you have to pause and work to figure it out, re-write it before you paste it onto your separate, categorized page. Spending time now to figure it out isn’t an issue because you need to figure it out anyway to identify the meaning. But having to spend time figuring it out every single time you read it would be a mistake. That is just extra work that you don’t need when you study. Study processes need to be all about reading through the material and trying to retain it, not having to get thrown off every five minutes because the phrases are too confusing. Save yourself the re-learning and re-teaching later by getting it done now.

#3: Isolate them – You may be wondering, isolate what, exactly? Isolate your newly created exam-notes as a study guide, apart from all notes taken from class. This is a product of the notes you took in class but grown better and stronger. Put it in its own folder, keep it by your bed, carry it everywhere you go – do whatever you need to feel attached to it as a separate entity from your other notebooks and binders. You’ve done a fantastic job thus far of making it an exceptional and comprehensible study material, so why would you let it get lost in the mess of all your other papers and books? It is not meant to blend in, it is your shiny new study guide. Officially title it if you need to. If you see it as something new, you’ll learn something new – many new things, actually. A fresh perspective will lead to fresh knowledge and hopefully, a fresh A+. 

After you’ve applied this procedure to your notes, you’ll actually be ready to sit down and study hard. Just don’t forget to give yourself enough notice ahead of time to truly put forth this organization. Instead of wasting time with regular procrastination, spend those antsy weeks prepping your notes for game-time. You may also want to check out this information on how to mentally prepare for test day.