Not all study notes are great.

This may come as a surprise for some since almost every student make study notes. They are even considered to be a staple tool for revisions.

For IB students, great notes are those that are effective in preparing them for their exams and tests. They consolidate all the study materials in one location and organise the study process. This boosts effectivity by streamlining revision and making study sessions more focused.

We have talked about the benefits of making great notes, but how do you make one? Today, we will be sharing five actionable tips you can use to make your notes great.

1. Structure your study notes according to the respective subject.

Great notes are a reflection of the subject itself.

The IB curriculum exposes their students to a wide variety of subjects. With six subject groups, students encounter subjects with different requirements daily. Some may be more theoretical than others; some more visual than others.

As each subject’s requirements are different, so should their notes. In other words, your Psychology notes should not look like your Math AI notes, and vice versa.

Theory-based subjects are studies that places a large focus on facts and concepts. An example of such a subject is Psychology and Biology. For these subjects, notes should include explanations and real-world application of concepts learnt.

For subjects with lesser theory elements, like Math AI, students should focus on solutions. Notes should place a larger emphasis on model answers and steps to answer the question.

QE TIP: Explain areas that are unclear.

Include explanations to steps that you don’t understand. Understanding why you would do specific steps can help you with your revision.

2. Create them around the exams.

When writing their notes, students often just put in everything they think they need to know.

In turn, everything ends up being included in the notes. Every definition, explanation, detail. With each addition, the note end up getting longer, and thicker, and wordier.

Some may be thinking, what’s the problem with that? Isn’t more better?

That is true… but only to a certain extent. More is better if the IB notes remain focused. But, that is often not the case. As more information gets added in, notes often lose their focus: exam preparation.

Information is consolidated wholesale from study sources- even if they are not tested in the exams. On the other hand, great notes are laser-focused. They are made around exams. Each piece of information carefully curated to help students be more exam-ready.

A quick tip to create notes centred around exams is to base it on the subject’s syllabus. The subject syllabus is a document that outlines the objectives of a subject. Usually, these objectives are also helpful in indicating what will be tested in the exams.

QE TIP: Go one step further; structure your notes like a Q&A.

This copies the format of the exam, allowing you to evaluate your answers as you write your notes. Take note the number of points made in an explanation as well as the keywords used.

3. Incorporate memory aids into study notes.

Study notes are meant to help us prepare for exams. But, sometimes instead of helping us, it becomes a reminder of what we have yet to memorise.

This often happens because of a lack of mnemonics used in the notes. Mnemonics may sound Greek to many, but in simple terms, they are memory aids. They help students by associating information with a visual image, sentence, or word. It is often used to help students learn, retain and retrieve information better.

The most common use of mnemonics is the memorisation of lists. A familiar example is the order of the planets in the solar system: My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Noodles (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).

Mnemonics can also be acronyms. For example, if you are struggling to remember the RedOx reaction and the electrode it happens at, the mnemonic AN OIL RIG CAT may be helpful.

This Chemistry mnemonic can be decoded as:

  • At the ANode, Oxidation Involves Loss of electrons
  • Reduction Involves Gaining electrons at the CAThode.

Images and association is another technique you can use to help you remember things better. For example, what does the bull and bear market refer to?

An easy way to remember, according to our IB HL Economics tutor, is to imagine an actual bull and a bear.

  • Bulls have horns; the horns thrusts up. Therefore, bull markets describe a situation when the financial prices are projected to go up.
  • Bears have paws; the paws swing down. Therefore, bear markets describe a situation when the financial prices are projected to go down.

Including these memory aids in your IB notes can make it significantly easier for you to memorise your notes.

4. Short and concise.

  • Keep sentences short.
  • Symbols & shorthand r helpful.
  • Shorter sentences → easier 2 remember ∴ good.
  • Point forms > paragraphs.
  • Remember to include keywords.

QE TIP: Consistency is key!

When using symbols and shorthand, be consistent with what each symbol and shorthand represents. This makes it easier to decode what is written.

5. Supplement study notes with additional readings.

When making notes, most students will reach for the powerpoint slides and notes from their teachers. Some may even consider the textbook.

For most students, this trio or resources would be enough. But, you don’t just want to make IB notes, you want to make great IB notes.

To elevate your IB notes to greatness, don’t stop there. Source for supplementary materials and add them into your notes. These materials should enhance your understanding of the subject.

The type of materials you are looking for will vary from subject to subject. For SL Economics, they may be articles revealing the practical application to the theories learnt in the classroom.

For Literature, this could may be the recommended critical essays your teachers provide. If it is not provided, then you may want to consider doing additional research. This critical essay can widen your perspective and make informed judgements about the text you are studying.

Study notes are more than a study accessory.

When done right, it is a study powerhouse that saves you time and frustration when you are revising for your exams.

Don’t wait, make your own IB notes great today!