Notes, Studying

Note-Formatting Resource

I was recently asked to share a post on how I format my notes. It’s pretty straightforward the way that I do it, but I’ll do my best to make it sound interesting!

Scribble Fast Notes in Class:

If I’m in class, I kind of just scribble my notes quickly with a mechanical pencil… making sure to include all examples and maybe draw a quick graph if I think it will help me remember the material.
These are my really quickly-written, really sloppy-looking notes. I use a lot of abbreviations, bullet points, and paraphrasing so that I can keep up with the PowerPoint/professor. It’s never fun to be that person in the class that everyone waits for as they copy the entire slide word-for-word!

Rewrite Notes When You Get Home:

Once I get home, I rewrite my scribbled notes into more logical, colorful notes that I will actually be able to read in the future. In the photo below, old notes look the ones on the left and the more-organized, rewritten notes look like the ones on the right. The ones on the right get saved and used as future study guides.
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List Chapter/Content in Righthand Corner:

When I rewrite my notes, I start at the top of the page (naturally) by writing the chapter/content title at the top center and the date in the top right corner. This is so that, when I’m flipping through my notes, I can quickly look for a particular chapter, date, or topic… which saves a lot of time in the future!

List Your Headings:

Then I begin writing the major headings/slide titles/topics on the left side of the notes page (by that red line that’s on notebook paper… the margin line, maybe?).
I used pink in this example because it stands out the most to me, but you can choose whichever color you like best (obviously). I used to write the title in a different color, but now I like the title, date, and major points to be the same color.

Format Your Bullet Points:

If there are numbers or bullet points for the major headers in my notes (1., 2., 3.,), I put those to the left of the red line. If there aren’t, then I just don’t put anything over there. This is just helpful for things that may have steps (like Bloom’s Taxonomy for those of you who are Education majors). It helps me remember for tests!
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Add in Your Important Information:

Then I just start filling in the information under each heading/topic by rewriting my original notes. Just copying the info from my “scribbly” notes and adding missing information, removing repetitive information, or clarifying things that may not have made sense from my first round of notes.

Add Textbook Page Numbers:

If I’m following along in my textbook, I add the page number of everything we cover in my notes. This makes it easier to read the text in the future because you’ve already connected it to something learned in class!
Also, there are SO many times when a professor/teacher asks a question and the answer is literally written right there on the page. It’s not a trick- go ahead and say the answer! Then write down the page numbers because if they bring it up in class, they’ll probably bring it up on the exam!

Add Keywords to Trigger Your Memory:

Add keywords to your notes. If I’m pretty familiar with the concept, I’ll jot down a few keywords to trigger my memory. However, if I’m learning the material for the first time, I write down whole sentences to reexplain it to myself when I read the notes again.
In this example, purple and blue could really be consolidated into one color… but if there are a lot of different levels, it may be helpful to have more colors to differentiate the information! Add page numbers for quick referencing!

Draw/Write Down Examples:

I draw or write every example in my notes. Examples given by the professor or book help you picture the concept in real-life. This is what helps you remember the content the most. I love examples because they bring the material to life and actually give it a purpose!
Teachers are always adding real-life examples or stories to go along with their lectures! WRITE THESE DOWN! They make the information so much easier to remember! And the crazier the story, the more likely you are to remember it on the test! yay!

Add Vocabulary Definitions:

Add new vocabulary terms to your notes! I write them all the way to the left of the red line (in the margin) so that it stands out. I may even highlight that if it’s a super-important concept AND a new word. This means that the things to the left of the margin line are page numbers and vocabulary words, which makes it easy to find and reference both!

Add as Much as You Need:

When I get to the bottom of my notes page, I just draw an arrow pointing to the right in the bottom right corner to show if there is writing on the back. Although, lately I have really been trying to condense my notes into one page instead of two.


If I do write on the back, at the top of the page, I write the topic name follow by continued. 

Then I use the same formatting system for notes on the back of the page. (gotta save those trees!)

Click here to get your free note-formatting sheets

Print the paper double-sided, and you’ll have the note-formatting key on the front. Once outlining your notes becomes automatic, just print the second page double-sided 🙂


If I’m writing notes straight out of the assigned reading, I write them like this. And that’s pretty much all that I can think of to describe the way I format my notes.
Please let me know if this sounds confusing or if I should clarify something!

Do you have a special system for formatting your notes? How do you do it? Do you rewrite them afterward or just format them the first time. 

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