Monday, March 16, 2009

Tips #1: Making Notes

As my parents would probably tell you, my style of studying is not the best because I studied at my own pace. That suited me better because I couldn’t achieve much when I couldn’t concentrate. Bear in mind that everyone’s brain functions differently, and everyone’s capacity is different.

But one thing I firmly believe in, that has brought me success, is making notes. I personally feel that reference books should not be relied on all the time. Last year, I made my own notes for the whole Form 4 and Form 5 Sejarah textbooks. I regretted not doing the Form 4 one in 2007 because I had to work faster and harder in Form 5 to complete both years’ Sejarah content, but I knew I had to. I believe that making your own notes helps you to remember. This is because making your own notes requires you to process the information, filter out what is not important, and understand your material. Furthermore, I don’t trust reference books to give accurate information. And, making notes saves time when doing last-minute revising, which is something I am guilty of but I don’t regret doing. Last-minute revising is important, but revising consistently is even more vital. There is no shortcut to success. Many thanks to Pn. Umadevi of MES for stressing the importance of making notes and making sure we did our notes consistently.

Biology is also another subject in which I relied heavily on my own notes. For this subject, I used the SUCCESS Biology reference book as my “textbook”. I made my notes out of the book, especially of the important processes, diagrams and such things that need full understanding of the matter. One good example is photosynthesis. If you memorize the process of photosynthesis word-for-word, you may not remember it correctly in exam. However, I drew a diagram of chlorophyll, H2O, CO2 and the arrows linking everything together. That way, I remember the diagram in exam and explain it in my own words. Saves effort, saves time, gets you good marks. Other things to take note of is blood osmotic pressure, the heart, blood clotting process, transpiration, the skeletal structure, respiration, etc.

Studies have shown that mind maps help your memory. I am a firm believer of mind maps. Sejarah requires lots of mind maps. For example, when I study about the Renaissance and Reformation, I draw arrows to the Factors, the Effect, the People Involved, etc. (all in Bahasa Melayu, of course) During exam, I usually remember the locations where I jotted down the points. Again, I stress that everyone’s brain works differently, but you might want to give it a try.

Before making notes, gather your resources, make a general overview of your study materials, make a list of what you need to know. While making notes, write down keywords and phrases that are important. Underline, bold, highlight, flash cards, read out loud what you write!

Lastly, use lots of colours. Studies show that colours jog your memory. So, unless you’re colour blind, use plenty of colours in your notes. I used the Stabilo point 88 coloured pens to decorate my notes. It not only makes your notes look nicer, more creative, but it is proven to help you remember! One of the quirky things I did last year was sticking random pieces of paper on the wall and scribbling important things to remember on them. For example while studying Chemistry I keep forgetting the colours of phenolphthalein, so I wrote down that it is purple when alkali and colourless when acid. (did I get that right?) And other important things as well. =)

How to remember everything? Review, review and review until you feel over-learnt! Test yourself, teach somebody, use acronyms! For example, I used a rhythmic poem to memorize this: Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species. Cleanse, Rinse, Repeat.

More tips from last year.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Good tips you have there. I agree that making notes is important. You might write a book on this?