How to prepare effective notes

Resham (Carpe Diem !!!) (6535 Points)

09 January 2011  


How to prepare effective notes


My statistics teacher in the starting of my 12th standard told us... “Nothing is better than handwritten notes if you want to understand as well as retain things in your mind… The more you write, the more you understand and the more you read your own handwritten notes, the more you will be able to remember, retain and even recall.”


Those words struck me… and as I didn’t go for tuitions for my board exams I started out with preparing my own notes rather than depending on my friends’ tuition notes. I was continuously doubted by my friends, neighbors and many even said that I secretly went for tuitions when I said that I went to my music class... (Not that I was ever demotivated by that… I think those things made me have that burning desire in me to answer back)


And the result??... not that I gloat over it but I secured 1st rank in my school and 3rd in district backing down all my classmates who went for tuitions… all those who ever ever doubted me… And it wasn’t like I left all my passions at bay that year…. (Dreadful to even think of such a life... you know am no book worm) I was very much into all my extra-curricular activities…

and the credit goes to -- without doubt my teachers and parents (who never doubted my abilities) and my notes


But the problem that many students in the initial stages confront is “What is the correct way to prepare notes?” “Which notes can be called effective notes?” “What kind of points should be included in notes?”…

…And many other queries which can be zeroed into one basic question “HOW TO PREPARE EFFECTIVE NOTES?”


So these are some points that I have got to know from my experience….


“Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes.”


Oh okay… my mistakes…




o   4 different colored pens

o   Pencils

o   Highlighter

o   Blank stickers

o   Your regular compass box containing rubber, scale, sharpener, etc.

o   And a lot of patience...As Stanislaw lec puts it in words, You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience.”



·         Keep different notes for different subjects and stick a plain sticker on top of each notebook. (the use of this is discussed later)


·         When you prepare notes keep only the requisite material with you… (What I mean to say is that don’t clutter the table with unnecessary things) unneeded things will make you clumsy and may even confuse you at times.


·         Write the name of the subject on all the sides of the notebook with a sketch pen so as to easily locate it…


·         Try as much as you can to intentionally refrain from shabby handwriting… ASTONISHED?? READ ON... ( I had this friend of mine in school who used to intentionally write long answers in shabby handwriting coz he knew that otherwise also he is not going to get marks… so he thought that the teacher might feel that the student knows the answers but the only thing is that his handwriting is not legible… no wonder he always got double dose… a zero in tests as well as scolding for illegible handwriting… he he)


HOW TO START WITH IT:           


Now don’t think that you are just too dumb( or even too smart) to take down notes… of course you can’t learn anything by merely sitting in front of a white sheet of paper and wondering the perfect way of preparing notes… Start out…  Let’s remember the words of Ursula K. LeGuin, “You sit down and you do it, and you do it, and you do it, until you have learned to do it.”



STEP 1: Read the chapter wholly, underline the important points and then first prepare an outline of the chapter – Like the topics covered, some important points (you can get to know about that from a scanner).


STEP 2: Edit the underlined points, make the shortest sentence possible out of that and then start writing it… Remember Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.”

Louise Brooks

So all that you need to do it is eliminate the unwanted things very well…

It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.”

C. J. Cherryh


STEP 3:  Underline the important points, encircle important words so as to make it catchy.



v  Never never start preparing notes of any chapter or topic (for subjects like TAX) without reading it wholly at least once... Once you get to understand the whole topic, you’ll be able to present it in a much better way and in a concise manner…


v  Don’t you dare think that preparing notes is vocation to be done in leisure… it is a very important part of your studies. So don’t wait for the right time at which you should start making notes. Now is the moment.


v  While doing sums, one should rate the difficulty level of that sum e.g. easy then 1*, very difficult 4*… but don’t do it before completing all the sums… only after you are done with a variety of sums will you be able to judge its difficulty level.



v  Don’t be slow. I have seen many who literally follow this quote by Abraham Lincoln “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening my axe” in their own version i.e. “Give me six hours to prepare notes… I’ll spend the four hours decorating the same” . They will read a para, write down the points with different colors, decorate the whole page and would give unnecessary attention to handwriting further dipping their speed… no doubt note making is an art but you need not become a painter for that…

Remember the words of Raymond Chandler The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”



Ø  Make use of different colored pens -- you see you don’t need to do it in this fasion… the aim is not to make it whole colorful but to differentiate a point from other depending upon its relative importance…


Ø  The plain sticker which we stick on each and every notebook should always state the subject’s name (number the books in case of multiple notebooks for each subject e.g. costing-1, costing-2…), the chapters covered in that notebook against which should be written the page number. This will help you at the time of exams. You won’t have to browse all the notebooks. It saves time… which we desperately need.


Ø  Make maximum possible use of Arrows and diagrams… It will work wonders in helping you retain whatever is learnt for a long period of time… moreover you won’t have to go through lengthy paragraphs.



Ø  Maintain a small index on the first page of each notebook.


Ø  BE EXCEPTIONALLY FAST:  Remember "If everything is under control, you are going too slow." - Mario Andretti (1940-)


No really… in the beginning it might seem that it gets difficult to speed up… Still do it. Remember those times when you had not done a chapter and the teacher declares a test for the very next day…? At those times we were able to complete the chapter in a day which otherwise would have taken a weeks time…



Ø  TEXT BOXES:  Whenever you feel that there is something related to this particular topic or sum which needs to be stated in a way that it catches our attention immediately then take a different colored pen, make a small text box beside that topic or sum and write that down in it…


For sums –

ü  Always write the question number and page number beside the question and even in the textbook write the notebook number and page number… this will provide a ready reference again saving a lot of time.


ü  Always write 4 basic things while solving sums:-

o   Given

o   Find/Calculate

o   Solution

o   Answer


ü  Working in this style would make your notes more systematic and easily locatable.


ü  If you make this a habit you can easily escape shabby notebooks and eventually shabby answer sheets.


ü  Have a habit of marking those things which you find a bit tricky for further reference.


With this I end it here… I have tried to cover maximum points.


"Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’."

- Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back


Thank you Admin, all my friends and respected elders.


Waiting eagerly for your comments ( more than results)