Close up of a woman sitting in the park writing in her notebook

There are many factors that can influence the success of studying. Before we even consider the benefits of taking and organising notes, and learning from them, some basic conditions need to be fulfilled for smooth and efficient learning. Think about establishing smart studying habits such as sticking to a reasonable schedule, choosing the right learning environment and staying away from distractions to avoid stress as the exam approaches. Having clear goals and motivation while being interested in the subject, combined with organisational skills and memory techniques will produce the best results.

Merely attending a lecture without taking notes or reading a textbook without paying attention to what is really important aren’t effective ways to absorb and retain information. To get the most out of lectures and other course material, you need to be actively engaged. Clever note-taking is the best way to achieve this. The effectiveness of note-taking methods will depend on a series of factors such as the subject matter involved, the type of information, your personal style of learning and organising information, etc. It is therefore best to experiment with different techniques and combine them to find the optimal method for your needs.

Taking notes during a lecture will help you concentrate on the given information and encourage you to think of ways to organise it later so you get the most out of it upon further reviews. It is recommended that you rewrite or retype the first version of your notes to improve clarity and add relevant information where necessary. For an even better understanding of the material, consider reorganising information into categories, charts or diagrams. Think about using examples to illustrate certain concepts and think of practical applications whenever possible. Ask yourself questions about the content of your material and give answers in your own words to ensure a deeper understanding. If you are a visual learner that relies heavily on association, think about using mind mapping techniques.

With time, you will also learn to identify the most important information and build your knowledge base from the big picture down to the details, which is the basic principle of outlining. It is particularly efficient when dealing with structured source material such as textbooks. It is the most popular note-taking method because it presents information in a clear and orderly manner while still involving analysis and synthesis of the information. Such notes are not only useful to you, but others can also use them for studying.

Making quality notes will not only help you study and pass exams, but it may also help you get additional learning resources. With the rise of online student-driven document libraries such as Think Swap, your note-making skills may prove to be very useful. Submit your notes and earn credits which you can later exchange and acquire others' notes you may need. You can benefit from the expertise of experienced students while contributing to the studying process of those who will need notes you can provide. You can still gain access to the database if you don’t contribute to it, but in that case you will need to purchase exchange points to access your desired document instantly. These document platforms review the submitted material regularly to ensure quality and prevent plagiarism.

While using quality notes written by successful students can certainly save you a lot of valuable time, it is not recommended to solely rely on this type of learning material. In order to achieve optimal learning results, attend lectures whenever you can and carefully read textbooks and other prescribed and recommended study materials so you can familiarise yourself with the subject and understand the material completely. Even though someone has carefully summarised the subject for you, be sure to rewrite or even restructure your notes and present them in a manner that works best for you.

Now that you have the perfectly summarised the subject by either creating notes yourself or modifying someone else’s notes, it is time to test your understanding of the material. Best methods include explaining or teaching the content to others and organising a group study session to compare notes and check your progress. As studying isn’t just about passing exams, these methods will ensure deeper understanding and will help you retain information for much longer.