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How to Make QCE Study Notes

By Olivia Widjaja in QCE
31st of January 2019
qce study notes

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Whenever I scroll through the forums or Facebook discussion pages, there will always be a handful of students asking for study notes. Although it is easier to use someone else’s notes, the whole point of study notes is that these notes are catered for your study methods. So how do you make these study notes? Here’s a guide on getting started with study notes!

One thing to remember is that study notes are not compulsory. There are people who have succeeded without study notes. Personally, I think study notes are beneficial because:

  1. Making study notes is therapeutic (I can actively procrastinate whilst making pretty study notes- note the difference between active and passive procrastination).
  2. I can organise all the information from my teachers in one place and in a concise way.
  3. I can use it as my ‘back up textbook’ before exams.

Layout

When it comes to study notes, I advocate aesthetic. It sounds very shallow but I find pretty-looking notes very motivating. It looks attractive and makes me want to go through it again. Plus, the end results are satisfying. Aesthetic doesn’t mean obnoxiously bright colours. It can also be minimalistic.

That being said, do not fall down the rabbit hole and start purchasing expensive stationery. You don’t need to write in calligraphy for your headers and you don’t need to buy expensive 30 pack highlighters sets. Of course, there are cheaper alternatives if you insist on buying a pack of colourful pens. Just don’t bother spending $30 on shipping if you’re going to buy online.

Handwritten vs Typed

Let’s begin with the age-old question: Handwritten or Typed?

To be honest, there’s no correct answer. Both have their pros and cons. I’ve tried both ways and they both work perfectly fine. If you’re still struggling to choose which type of format your study notes should be, here’s some things to think about:

Are you a minimalistic person?

Do you want to spend more time applying the information than rewriting the information?

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to layouts?

Then typed notes are for you. Typed notes are faster to put together and they’re great for simple layouts. I found colour coding in typed notes a bit too bothersome since I have to choose the right colour and make sure I can still see it. You are limited to bold, underline and italics, but it gets the job done.

On the other hand:

Are you a visual person?

Do you enjoy writing?

Are you apathetic towards people’s complaints on your handwriting?

Then handwriting notes is for you. Most of the studyblr members are visual people because they love highlighters and coloured pens. The second question may sound a bit weird but I have a friend who just loves writing and sampling different types of pens. The obvious limitation is that your handwriting matters but at the end of the day, they are your notes.

Regardless of what method you choose, remember that each subject contains different content so you have to adjust your study notes to your subjects. This is how I would set out my study notes.

Humanities

These are, in my opinion, the easiest subject to make study notes for. Sure, there’s a lot of content to sift through, but it’s easier to make study notes. The way I set out my notes is to use a syllabus dot point and use the main key terms in my heading. For example, say a section of a History syllabus is ‘War on the Western Front’- I would use that as my main heading. My sub-headings are my syllabus dot points. If you’re writing your study notes, I would suggest highlighting the dot point. With typing, I italicise the dot point to separate it from the information. Underneath the syllabus dot point, I would write my information in dot points- this makes it easier to read.

Do not put ten dot points underneath because it doesn’t make your notes concise.  Don’t forget to include diagrams and flow charts. Try and mix up the way you convey your information to keep things interesting. Just writing dot points can bore you. Here’s a sample of some study notes:

When it comes to key terms, I would either highlight it or write it in a different colour and write a definition near the information so I can put the definition in context. I also use colour coding for important names, events and dates. If there is any information that is extremely important, then I would highlight it. Don’t highlight massive paragraphs- it takes away the emphasis of highlighted words/phrases.

So what information should you include? My study notes are a compilation of class notes, worksheets and a bit of textbook information. Do not rely on textbooks. They’re only good for giving extra information. You should be only going to your textbook if you want to get some information on a case study or a quote (only if the textbook quoted from an expert, never quote textbooks!). You should be going to your class notes and worksheets first and clarify any information with your teacher. Textbooks and extra research should be your last resort.

Maybe just pure writing isn’t your style. What other alternatives are there? Mind maps and flow charts on A3 sheets of paper are excellent. They’re good for showing cause and effect (great for ‘explain’ questions) and you can make it like a poster so you can stick it up in your room. Flash cards are also great since they make sure you’re concise with your information and are portable.

English

Before you approach any text, research the context. This is vital for understanding the novel. I’m studying The Tempest, so I would research personal, historical and social context and write the information in its respective headings. It doesn’t have to be about Shakespeare himself; I also included some main Elizabethan values that may have shaped Shakespeare’s works. After I do that, I do the same with my related text and compare the context. This makes it easier to spot similarities and differences and can enhance essays, especially questions that involve ‘context and values.’

I found that tables are excellent for organising your quotes. I would usually make columns for the following (in order): Idea, technique, quote, analysis. Don’t forget page numbers in your quotes if you want to refer back to them. Another way to organise your table is to focus each table on an idea- for example, the theme of freedom and confinement in The Tempest- and make the following columns: quote, connection to the rubric and consequences. I found this useful for a handful of text types.

But how do you know what quotes to use? When you’re reading through your text, use sticky notes. When my teacher analyses a few scenes in class, I would write supplementary information and page numbers on paper and technique and explanation on a sticky note, next to the quote. Sometimes it’s not a technique so I use a different colour sticky note to represent ‘ideas/themes.’ With all these sticky notes, I would go through every sticky note and transfer it to my table. Of course, I would have the basic analysis/idea of the quote so I would try and analyse the quotes myself. If I found myself unsure or if I feel like I’m misinterpreting the quote, I would consult with my teacher personally and we would discuss it together. This is what my text looks like at the moment: 

Math

I found it difficult to pin point how I should study for Maths. Maths is about skills and application, so is it worth making study notes? Personally, I wouldn’t call them study notes, but more like formula sheets. I usually handwrite these formula sheets (because I find it very fiddly to type up formulas).

With these formula sheets, I would separate them by topics. I write down a formula (usually in red) and then draw a box around it with a highlighter to make it stand out. Below that, I write what each variable meant and sometimes a quick explanation if needed. I would also include two examples: a skill based question and an application question. By skills based, I mean your simple textbook question with some working out. This gives you a foundation so you can expand on this skill when you apply it. When it comes to application questions, I would go through my school’s past papers to find an exam-style question and get used to how it’s set out in exams.

Like I said, it’s difficult to make study notes for math. I went by a year without making study notes. Sure you have a reference sheet in the exam but what’s the point of having a reference sheet when you don’t understand what it means? Making formula sheets can be useful in knowing how to derive a formula or understanding what the formula means.

Science

Science notes are a combination of Humanities and Math – Content and formula. I usually set it out the same way as my Humanities notes (syllabus dot point then information underneath) but I would also include sample math-based questions. In Physics, for example, I would have the syllabus dot point, information underneath and then a formula near the information that relates to the formula. I would box it and write the meaning of the variables underneath it and include one or two questions using that formula.

Of course, diagrams are important in science. I suck at drawing so I would either attempt it (which becomes a big mistake) or print it out. When I type my notes, I would find a diagram online and copy it in my notes. There’s nothing new here because like I said, it’s a combination of Math and Humanities.

Storing Your Study Notes

You’ve finally made your study notes. Where should you put it? First of all, make sure you put these study notes in a safe, memorable place. It would be pointless if you put in a lot of effort in making these notes and then lose them. I would highly recommend a binder. If you already use a binder for school, don’t put it in the same binder with your class notes. Label your binders and make sure you store it near your desk. Think of this binder like a textbook- you wouldn’t want to lose a textbook.

I format my binder by putting the syllabus at the front of each section before placing my notes in their respective section.

If you decide to write your notes in a notebook, I would recommend an A5 notebook. Although you won’t be able to include a lot of information in one page, you can carry the notebook anywhere without adding more weight to your bag. Plus, if you have multiple exams on one day, a number of A5 notebooks can be carried in your school bag without you having to heave a heavy bag to school.

And that’s it! This is my guide for writing study notes! Remember, study notes are not compulsory and this is not a definitive guide– these tips should be refined and adjusted to your studying technique. Also, you should not be making study notes during every study session. Writing study notes are good for collating information into one place, but you need to supplement it with other forms of study.

Want to see more of Olivia’s amazingly aesthetic study sessions? Keep up with her on Instagram!

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