How To: Organise your lecture/school notes

TL;DR Your lower school teachers had a point with those exercise books...

Throughout my GCSE, A-Level and University studies so far I've tried organising my notes in a variety of ways. Now, at university, I think I've settled on a way that works for me. If you're still struggling to effectively manage your notes you might find this useful.

So let's get straight into my "method" then. For the purposes of this post I'll talk about notes I take at university but you can easily apply this to GCSE, A-level or anything else you need to take notes for.

To begin to organise a collection of items (each of the pages of notes that you take) you need some way of categorising them. Like most people I know I categorise notes by the module of study they were taken for. At A-level I organised notes based on what module and subject they were taken for and at university I do it based on what module I take them for - not much change there.

The real change came when I changed what I did with the notes once I'd taken them. At A-level I took notes all from the same book of lined paper and then organised them into folders. The problem with this was that the post note taking sorting was time consuming and I quickly gave up on sorting my notes as I couldn't be bothered to do it after studying. I now realise this way of doing things is a bit silly - why not just use books of paper as exercise books and cut out the folders?
I usually use 3-4 books per semester 

Now at university I have a book of paper for each module and once I complete that module I pull out all the unused paper and use it for doing past papers and revision. That's the other key aspect of why I find this works for me. Don't mix your exam practice together with your notes - that hasn't every worked well for me in the past. I find that after I've finished a module the practice I did for a particular exam is mostly useless whereas the notes I took can come in handy to refer back to when studying future modules.
Use spare paper from books for past papers and revision notes

So in summary:
  • Get exercise books for each module/subject.
  • Write notes on content in the book.
  • Do practice for exams and tests on spare paper.
  • Once you've finished a module/subject use the spare paper recovered from the exercise book for your next set of exams.
Let me know if this works well for you. Have you come up with a better method?

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