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Noteworthy Study Notes

Making study notes is probably the most important part of exam preparation, but can also be a waste of valuable time if done incorrectly.

Below are a few tried-and-tested methods of note-taking, with the benefits and downsides of each:

Cornell 2-column method of taking notes:

In this method a page is divided into three spaces. The top part is divided into 2 columns, with the column on the left about 5 cm wide. The left side is used to write down keywords and the right side for more information on those keywords.

At the bottom of the page a space is left to summarise the topic. In this space notes made in the classroom and from the the text book should be included.

  • Each page will give a quick summary of a specific topic and the keywords make revision and retention of knowledge easier.
  • Making these notes can be time consuming, so start early. In its original format it includes very few visual tools which may be a downside for visual learners.

Mind maps or concept maps

A mind map or concept map is a diagram in which the main idea is placed in the centre, with associated ideas arranged around it. Mind maps are visual and include colour and images. The use of these elements have proven to be very effective in the retention and recalling of facts.

  • Mind maps are best for visual learners who battle to remember written facts. One page can give an overall and connected view of a topic.
  • Visual learners are usually creative, which means that they may spend a lot of time on the creative elements of the mind map and not necessarily on the facts. Children who are by nature more structured may battle with the free-flowing, unstructured nature of mind maps.


Learning through listening is a very valuable tool in the retention of knowledge. If a child listens attentively in class, studying will be easier.  The auditory learner can study with a friend, discussing topics and questions, video themselves on their phones, reciting the facts or read the text out loud to themselves.

  • Generally an auditory learner can remember around 75% of what is heard in a lecture or classroom. All students will benefit from working on their listening skills.
  • Unfortunately exams are written, and auditory learners can battle to recall facts if asked to write it down. It is therefore important that this method should be combined with one of the other learning methods.
  • Using technology

Children today are fascinated by, and pre-occupied with technology, so why not include technology in their exam or test preparation?

There are a variety of note-taking apps available where learners can make notes on smart phones or tablets. Apps like Evernote, Meernote, SimpleNote and Noteability allow the user to make notes, upload files or images, set reminders, add colour etc.

Another option is to purchase the online version of your child’s textbook. Pearson now has all Platinum textbooks available as downloadable pdf-documents. Once purchased, the textbook can be viewed on “Bookshelf” on a computer, tablet or smart phone. It allows for notes to be made (and shared), sections to be highlighted and even has an auditory function with the ability to listen to sections of the text book being read to you.

Follow this link to view textbooks available:

Choosing the correct study method is a personal choice, depending on learning styles and preferences.

Ultimately the best solution is to incorporate as many senses as possible when studying, as this has proven to be the best way of retaining facts.

(See featured image for an example of using the Cornell 2-column method of learning, incorporating elements of mind-mapping.)



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