When I was in year 10 we started getting told to buy revision guides for the GCSE exams, so it was no surprise when my physics teacher told us about the “best revision guide ever” with examples, practice calculations (with hints) and core facts laid out in a way that we would all understand. Our whole class wanted to order one of these revision guides thinking this would be a clean ticket to a good grade… and then our teacher said “well you can all have one for free”. At this point I thought, wait, where’s the catch??! The teacher then said to get one of these guides you have to take good notes because our notes would be the revision guide.
That really hit me. So simple but so very important! I still used the revision guides that you could buy but when you get to Uni you won’t have those CGP revision guides you could get at G.C.S.E and A-level as unfortunately university courses are often too specific to the university for these sorts of things to be made. If you’re lucky and do a common course such as law or medicine there may be text book which might as well be a revision guide with practically everything you need to know for an exam in it. The other ideal situation is where a tutor bases the course on a particular text book however this isn’t often the case- at least in my course it isn’t!
This means that the notes you take and are (sometimes) given are your most important reference.
So how to make this “best revision guide ever”? Well let me show you some hints and tips that I wish I knew at the start of my 4 year course!
1) Write neatly… or at least legibly. You’re not writing things down for writings sake! You will need to be able to read what you have written possibly months later so it helps if the notes you make in your lectures are legible.
a) If you’re doing an arts or humanities course and are good at typing I suggest you bring a laptop into your lectures because tutors can talk very fast.
b) If you’re doing a science/engineering based course and there are maths examples, try to make sure you get all the parts of the equations written down along with a topic title so you can look up the method later
2) If the lecturer is showing you an example using a particular method, it may be wise to think how the method is applied to the example and write that down instead of the example itself. Let’s say he is showing you how to do long division. Rather than copying the question and the answer you write down pointers to how he did it- there is nothing more frustrating than looking at examples you understood in class but when you look back you can’t remember how it was done!!!
3) Highlight key words and make sure they are spelled correctly! This enables you to pick out the important stuff when you are scanning over the notes later. Coloured pens and use of capitals are also good
4) Keep them organised. Write the date on the top of each page you use and number the page at the bottom. Do this for the notes or screenprints they give you too. Heaven forbid you drop your file full of notes, but should you do this, at least it will be straightforward to putting them back in the right order! Try to file your notes as soon as possible so you don’t lose an odd sheet.
5) Mark points that you didn’t understand, missed or didn’t finish writing down. I’ve seen some peoples notes where the whole page is full of unfinished sentences and question marks with no reference to go back and ask about. Make sure you know what it was you didn’t get, and sort it out asap. Ask a friend, lecturer or tutor but don’t just leave it!
6) Use a digital recorder. If you have one that can leave indexes all the better as it allows you to place a marker at a key point/ at a piece you missed or didn’t have time to write down during the lecture. If your recording device (eg an iphone) doesn’t allow markers then just write the time down in the margin at the point where you’re getting lost or think it’s good to have a listen to a key point again later. Don’t forget to replay the recordings at the points you need to go back to and fill in extra info.
Well I hope these points are useful and you try them out! Last but not least… there is no point having the best revision guide ever if you don’t use it- so don’t forget to use your notes to revise from and review them regularly!!
If this section has been useful to you, why not look at some of the others?
Series One: University
Part One: Going to university, what to pack?!
Part Two: Beating Homesickness and Fresher Blues- coping on your own
Part Three: Food for University
Part Four: Lecture note writing for easy revision
Part Five: University Organisation
Part Six: Dyslexia at University