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How I Organised My Undergraduate Notes

One of the main things that I found during undergrad was that taking good and reliable notes was key to my success. I learn a lot by writing things out, and so a lot of my undergraduate learning was done in the process of making and editing my notes.

I had someone over on my instagram ask me to share how I organised my undergraduate notes, so I'm going to share with you all my process here now!

Firstly, I used to listen to my recorded lectures after the session was done so that I was able to pause them and take detailed notes as I listened. I would spend up to 3 or so hours on a 1 hour lecture, writing out meticulously all the details they spoke about into a lined notebook. I was pretty fastidious with my notes, so I used to colour code titles and information, as well as hand draw diagrams so that my notes would look pretty. I don't know why, but I always found that the prettier my notes looked, the more I wanted to look over them.

I would do this for every lecture per semester, with one notebook per unit, and would create hundreds upon hundreds of pages of handwritten notes. (It's worth mentioning that if I were doing this today, I'd use my iPad to write out my notes instead of using up so much paper, but I didn't have an iPad with an Apple Pencil back then because I couldn't afford one!)

I used to have little tabs that I'd use to mark each topic so that I could easily navigate through the notebook, as well as going through and numbering all the pages by hand and creating a table of contents at the beginning so I could also easily find the information I was looking for.

Then, when it came time for exams, I used to take these handwritten notes and type them up. I wouldn't type them up verbatim, but instead I would try and condense down to the key points with an emphasis on things I didn't understand yet or didn't yet have memorised. I tried to not have more than two pages per topic, so I'd generally condense around one hundred pages of handwritten notes per unit down to about 20 pages of typed notes.

I printed these out and put them in a display folder, and I'd then occasionally go back and read over my condensed notes to try and memorise the content. But I'd spend most of my time doing practice questions once I'd made my condensed notes. And this is where my notes system sort of ended.

However, if I were going through undergrad today, I'd have one last final step in my notes process - FLASHCARDS. If you're in undergrad and haven't yet heard of Anki, I'd highly recommend looking into it. It's a semi-free (well free on desktop, a small price on the iPad) program that allows you to create flashcards for your subjects. I've been using Anki for my GAMSAT study and I've got to say it's changing the game for me.

You can create flashcards that cover parts of a sentence so that you have to fill in the blank, and then there's an add on that you can get that allows you to cover part of an image so you can guess what's underneath (particularly good if you're trying to memorise labels on a diagram).

Anki uses active recall and spaced repetition to maximise the time you do spend studying so that you can remember what you need to know. It also prevents you from studying over stuff you already know too frequently. It can take some time to set up your Anki deck, but it's 100% worth it and if you go over your cards every day, you'll be surprised how much you learn in a short amount of time!

I wish I'd known about Anki in undergrad, as I really think it would've really helped cement my notes in my brain, and would've made memorising the content a lot easier.

So there you have it - my undergraduate notes process!

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