Revision skills: Note-making strategies

Exams are fast approaching despite our best attempts to ignore them and so, the time has come to turn our minds to revision. Revision is such a personal activity- we’ve all got our personal routines and rituals, styles and techniques (although I’m not sure whether my technique of extremely frequent napping really counts). However, maybe it’s time to break out of these traditions. This is the perfect time of year to try out some new techniques and upgrade your studying method!
It’s also a great excuse to buy more stationery (you’re welcome)

I’m going to be focusing on a few note-making techniques for revision, the ways they can fit into your revision routines and the different purposes they might fulfil. Not all of them will suit your style – not all of them suit my style either – but maybe you’ll find something useful for the future!

Cornell notes

2Cornell notes are probably one of the more famous note-taking techniques. There are three different sections – a cue column to write questions or key words, a note-taking area to write details into and a summary area to summarise your notes and consolidate your learning after you have finished your notes. When it comes to revision, you can cover the note-taking area and use the cue column to test yourself on certain questions or topics.

I really like Cornell notes because they aren’t far from the way I normally make notes, but are more structured and logical when it comes to reviewing the information. You can still use your own note-taking style at the same time, which makes it quite flexible.

Cornell notes can also be really helpful for lecture note-taking, so you could adopt it for next semester as well! It might not be as useful for identifying the links between different topics and finding overarching themes in your revision. For that you could use…

Mind maps, visual notes and timelines

I’m sure we’ve all drawn a mind map at some point in our academic careers, but they can form part a great arsenal of more creative notes that can help you link together themes and information, as well as giving you an excuse to crack out the coloured pencils. If you’ve successfully managed to avoid this technique, here’s an example below:


It’s useful for visualising links between topics and showing the bigger picture of your work, and you can have a bit of fun making it colourful and covered in pictures. If you like making bright, visual revision tools, you might also want to make lots of posters and timelines as well. Just make sure not to spend all of your revision period drawing intricate
and beautiful drawings without learning the content as well.


This is a good technique to work out how your revision is going and what you still need to
focus your studies on. The page is separated into three different columns (Know, Want to know and Learned). Before you start revising, you should first fill in the first two columns. Then use it to guide your research and add things to the learned column. You can find out more about KWL and the other techniques I’ve discussed here.

Ultimately, the best way to study is to mix and match together the things that work for you. If going quirky works for you, go for it: draw lots of surreal cartoons to help you memorise psychologists’ names! Turn any notes put up around the house into an elaborate game or treasure hunt! Teach your goldfish physics! The important thing is that you’re evaluating your studying and note-taking techniques to make sure they’re working for you. So try something new: you never know what will work for you.

If you want to print any of the templates presented, you can download them from our revision resources article. Oh, and don’t forget to tweet us any questions you may have about preparing for exams!


By Hannah from the Student Team



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