Types of Study Notes to Help You Understand Lessons Better

April 20, 2020

Disorganised notes are as bad, if not worse, than merely copying everything the instructor says. So, when it is time to pore over the material, you end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out what you scribbled. And during the achievement tests, your score would only be as good as the time you invested in studying your notes.

Organisation is the first step toward effective note-taking, especially with subjects you struggle with. A survey by the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment showed that 15-year-old Australian students struggle with mathematics, reading, and science compared to their Chinese counterparts. So, it would make sense that they should work twice as hard to pass the subjects.

As an added bonus, they have the opportunity to earn money if they sell notes online. There are websites out there that would take their notebooks and re-distribute them to other students who need them. So, you collect about 60% of the proceeds while helping others in the process.

Composition is key when you are trying to prepare study materials.  These study notes tips will increase your chances of passing a subject you are struggling with:


Have you ever seen those family tree diagrams? The mapping method looks similar to those. So, you have the main topic at the very top, then it branches out to sub-topics as you go down the list. For each sub-topic, you write out the main points (main point 1, main point 2, etc.)

Sentence —

This type of method is straightforward. You simply jot down the lecture, highlighting the main points. So, sentence one covers one topic and subtopic. Sentence two covers another topic, and so on.

Charting —

With this method, you divide your notebook into columns. The number of columns will depend on the complexity of the main topic. You can have three or four columns, or you can only have two. Each column represents the sub-topic, and you list down the main points within the sub-topics.

Cornell Method —

You divide the page into three sections. On the right side are the notes you take down in class. On the left side, which is a smaller column, you jot down your remarks based on the notes (vocabulary terms, further research materials, etc.), and at the bottom is the summary. The latter should encapsulate the lesson, so it is crucial that you use your own words. The Cornell method is invaluable for students who are having a difficult time finding relationships between topics and sub-topics.

Outlining —

Outlining looks similar to Mapping, but you do not have to draw a diagram. You write the main topic and the sub-topic underneath. Under the sub-topic, you then outline the main points. You can have two or three main topics on a single page. This type of study notes is easy to follow and allows you to organise your lessons quickly. You can also formulate study questions out of the topics and sub-topics.

And if you have passed your subjects, you can sell notes online. It is a good way to earn money from your hard work. Instead of just giving them away or throwing them in the trash, why not create an account on these note-sharing websites and maximise your notes?

Whatever you do, make sure that you use your own words in your study notes. Research has shown that it helps the student absorb the lesson better as opposed to copying what the teacher said word-for-word.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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