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Whilst studying for professional qualification, most students create copious amounts of notes, whether from the textbooks, revision courses, or from a lecturer at a Revision Course run by the the Institute Academy. These notes are a valuable resource for your learning and they will build up quickly during your studies.
They can help you to record and map what you are learning and then to recall and understand it later. You may well depend upon your notes for your revision, as well as for any coursework assignments. It is important, therefore, to develop efficient and effective skills for creating notes.
Note-Making v Note-Taking
The difference between note-making and note-taking is substantial and could mean the difference between a pass and a credit pass or indeed a pass and a fail.
Taking notes can be useful for study, but it is a passive approach to study and learning – this starkly contrasts with the more active approach known as note-making.
Sequential / Linear Note-Making
This traditional approach typically involves making notes in the form of lists or phrases. Notes of this type can be made for different purposes and can include more or less detail, as required, or to highlight points. The main features of good sequential notes are:
The following is an example of sequential note-making from the Introduction to Financial Services textbook which is studied at the Certificate / Diploma level.
The notes are clear and eye-catching and notice the amount of white space on the page – this allows the eye to see a pattern that the brain then finds easier to store in its long-term memory. The use of key ideas or words is crucial to sequential note-making. It is therefore important that you choose these carefully at the outset before compiling your notes.
Pattern Note-Making / Mind-Mapping
This technique is a more visual method of note-making than a linear approach. This approach uses arrows and circles to connect key words/phrases and should lead to the creation of a spreading pattern in all directions, rather than just words which start at the top of the page and work down.
In 1979, Tony Buzan advocated that we need to make more use of note-making forms that use the right side of our brain. The left side of the brain works in a linear way; it deals with lists and sequences. On the other hand, the right side builds and stores images and patterns.
Buzan introduced the concept of mind-mapping which involves making notes with patterns and by using images. Buzan believes that these images and patterns can be important aspects of our learning processes and provide effective routes to understanding.
The main features of pattern note-making / mind-mapping include:
f you haven't tried mind-mapping before, why not practice with an idea / topic which is not related to your studies? Choose something which you know a lot about or are very interested in, e.g. your hobby or special interest. Once you have done this, keep developing and practising your mind-mapping techniques until you can use this form of note-making for your studies.
Abbreviating may be particularly useful when making notes from speech, such as at a CIOBS Academy Revision Course where time is of the essence.
The use of diagrams will not only make your notes much easier to read and more presentable but will also help you to memorise the subject material.
Using Mnemonics and Groupings
From early schooldays most of us developed the use of mnemonics as a memory aid. Remember learning the key scales in music? E G B D F. Teachers told us to remember instead, Every Good Boy Deserves Football (or Favour). Even tone deaf and musically illiterate students remember this mnemonic many years later!
During your studies you should be able to develop a number of mnemonics to help you remember facts about the topic. A good example from Sales and Service is a mnemonic to remember the principle of giving information to customers - KISS or
Alternatively you may wish to group ideas as a way of remembering them more efficiently. Marketing provides an excellent example of grouping. A product's marketing mix is often described as the 4P's, or
Highlighting, Annotating and Underlining
Underlining involves drawing lines under the print with a pen, or (coloured) pencil. Highlighting involves covering the print by using light-coloured felt markers or highlighting pens. Annotating involves making brief notes in the margins of the page in order to explain or comment upon the material. These note-making techniques can allow you to pick up the meaning of the text when you come back to it at a later date.
Underlining, highlighting and annotations are a valuable way of focusing your attention on the text and making you pick out and think about the main ideas. They also force you to leave a trace on the page of the sense you have made of the text.
Use these methods as long as this is not where your note-making ends otherwise you may end up with most of the page coloured in fluorescent yellow or pink and covered in a scrawl of notes! If you tend to cover most of the text with highlighter, it may be wise not to have a pen in your hand for the first reading. If you decide to highlight the reading material, consider making notes in a separate notebook or index cards rather than on the text itself. This is because a textbook is a cumbersome place in which to store notes. Given that you will be using more than one source for any assignments, it would be difficult and impractical to carry around your all notes.
Avoid trying to write first drafts of assignments from highlighted or underlined notes. It is usually necessary to take written notes as well – just highlighting parts of a photocopy from an article or book is not enough. By summarising the relevant parts of what you have read you will begin to understand and remember the material.
Bringing together notes you have already made to make a new, condensed version can be useful. This is called summarising. Summarising the material in your own words will actually save you time, since once you put the information in your own words you won't need to waste time working out the meaning of a passage you have highlighted, every time you re-read it.
Putting the notes into your own words also means that you are not likely to commit plagiarism (using others' work and representing it as your own).
Storing your Notes
Having spent a considerable amount of time making notes from various sources, it's worth spending a little more time developing your own system of organising them. This will save you time in the long run as you won't have to waste time searching for notes you made some months ago. Consider some of the following tips for storing and organising your notes:
More Tips for Making Effective Notes
Whichever format you use for note-making, it should allow you to:
The Chartered Banker programme provides broad, flexible skill sets and a wide range of ways to achieve the qualification.
Philip Grant, Managing Director, UK Private Banking at Lloyds Banking Group