Making Notes


During an A level course there are basically two types of note taking that a student will be faced with:


Making notes in class

Making notes as a result of private study & reading


There are many ways of writing notes, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is best to try them all to see which method works for you. Certain subjects or topics may lend themselves to one particular method. The most important point is that they are useful later when you wish to re-use them.


Why make notes?


Notes make you concentrate on what you are learning

Notes make you put ideas into your own words and so aid understanding

Notes help you remember things better

Notes are excellent for revision


Taking notes in class - how to improve your technique


Don't try to write down everything the teacher says

Concentrate on picking out the relevant points only

Write notes in point form with separate sub headings

Develop your own shorthand (see examples below)

Leave plenty of space between your notes for later additions

Jot down any references given in class to read later

Number any handouts issued with a corresponding number in the relevant place in your notes

Underline key phrases in red, or with a highlighter pen

It is always advisable to date and number each sheet of A4 as you use it

Before your next lesson expand on your class notes from text books etc. using the tips given below


Finally, always ask the teacher for a further explanation if there is something you do not understand - you can be sure there is someone else in the class who has difficulties too!


Taking notes from written sources - how to improve your technique


1. Making notes on books or handouts




Key phrases can be underlined

Comments can be added in the margin



Can only be used if you own the book!

You haven't summarised points in your own words to reinforce understanding

It is very difficult to revise from these notes later; you will probably have to re-read the whole book/article


In summary, quick in the short term only.


2. Making summary notes or a precis


This involves reading all the information, working on each paragraph in turn, rewriting in your own words. A brief introductory and concluding paragraph is advisable.



Detailed notes obtained

Helps to develop your written style



Time consuming

Continuous prose is difficult to revise from

The salient points do not stand out easily


In summary, a useful exercise but not "user friendly" in the future.



3. Sprays


This involves quickly jotting down all your ideas on a subject and linking them up.



Very quick

Good practice for essay plans in the examination

Makes you think analytically



May not be suitable for more complex notes

Could be difficult to revise from later


In summary, very useful in organising thought processes, especially in the exam room but has limitations for general use.


4. Visual and pattern notes


This method involves using flow diagrams or "concept trees" (another name for pattern notes) to record information.



Can sum up many pages of written notes

You concentrate on the fundamentals

Very active form of learning

Visual images are a great aid to recall

Add a "fun" element to note taking



Could be too absorbing!

May be difficult to express more complex ideas clearly


In summary, a valuable supplement to "linear notes" ( NO. 5)


5. Linear Notes


This method involves reorganising information in a written format using your own shorthand and personal style.



Makes you think analytically

Aids your understanding

Simple to revise from and use later



Initially quite time consuming

Doesn't aid visual memory like pattern notes In summary, initially takes some thought and time but probably most useful method for expressing complex ideas clearly.


Some tips!

Use titles, subtitles and bullet points

Avoid lengthy prose

Underline key points in red or with a highlighter

Produce a summary list/table at the end of a section

Don't be afraid to produce tables e.g. Advantages & Disadvantages of........

Include topical examples and case study references in your notes as you go along but remember you would only have time to write a paragraph in an examination answer so this is how long it should be!

Write memory jogs to yourself in the margin e.g. "Good diagram p 146 in Book X"

Develop your own shorthand; use abbreviations