24 Chapter 24: Reviewing and Organizing Your Notes

Use Your Notes to Study

The third aspect of note taking involves what you do with them after you create them. Here are three strategies to employ in order to get the most benefit from them.

Review and Edit Quickly

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that notes can be left idle until exam time. Get to your notes within 24 hours to review and edit for clarity & accuracy. The sooner (and more often) you expose yourself to the material, the easier it will be to recall. A good routine to adopt is to read over your notes from the day’s classes before you go to sleep. At that point, the information is still fresh in your mind. If there are any inaccuracies or errors in your notes, they will be easier to identify than if you were to wait days or weeks before reading them. Sometimes when you write quickly you might end up with notes that are difficult to read. Fast writing is a ripe environment for sloppy penmanship. Now is the time to be sure that your notes represent the information from class in a clear and accurate form.

Go Digital 

Although it was previously stated that handwritten notes can prove more effective than those taken with a laptop, there is still good reason to convert the handwritten notes into digital format. Consider typing up your notes into a word processing file. Once you have done so, there are a host of options for editing them. You can increase font sizes, use bold face font, cut and paste to customize and organize, use colors, and simply give them a neater and easier to read appearance. Once digitized, your notes can also become more accessible on multiple devices, reducing the potential for the tragedy of a lost notebook.

Share Copies

Looking at everything from only one set of eyes limits your ability to understand information from other perspectives. Exchange Copies of notes with other students in class. You can be guaranteed that you will find something in a classmate’s notes that you do not have in yours and they will similarly benefit. Doing so can also help to confirm your learning accuracy. If your notes are in digital format this can be done as simply as sending an email. If not, you can just use your phone to take a picture of them and text them to a fellow student.[1]

Studying With Your Notes

If you have been following the methods described in this chapter, your notes will include questions that you have answered by reading or listening. Rather than simply re-reading notes, which is less effective, you will benefit most if you use your notes as a self-study tool. [2]

  1. Read the question in your notes out loud.  Cover the answer with a sheet of paper.
  2. Recite the answer out loud as best as you are able, or jot it down on a piece of paper.
  3. Compare your answer with what you have in your notes.  If you are correct, move on to the next question.  If you have difficulty with a question, review the related material in your notes again.  You may wish to use a sticky note or flag to mark questions you need to review again.

As you take good notes, you will strengthen your learning skills as you become more proficient at identifying key information from lectures and texts. By including study questions in your notes as you take them, you will turn your notes into a powerful tool for later review and exam preparation.

Licenses and Attributions:

Content previously published in University 101: Study, Strategize and Succeed by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, licensed as CC BY-SA.

Adaptations: Added items to relocated content

 


  1. Adapted from Ellis, Dave, (2006), Becoming a Master Student, Cengage Learning
  2. Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100612453266

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