All about my note taking for classes! I have adapted my ways over the past few semesters while in this nursing program. I think I wrote about my study habits during my first year in the program, so here’s an update of what I’ve been doing. I can’t exactly say that this way has worked for me for every class – because every professor does teach differently so I’ve had to change things here and there. Also, please note that I don’t always have time to do all of these steps when I study – life happens, or I get overwhelmed with nursing school, or I procrastinated. But overall I always seem to follow this system in some way or modify it depending on how things are going!
So first off, my notes template! I adapted this style from a Youtuber, this is her video that gave me inspiration. I have a ‘Notes Template’ word doc saved on my desktop for easy access each time I want to start new notes for any class. All I need to do is open it, save as, and rename it as a new document. I usually have one document of notes per exam per class.
Right now, I am working on my Exam 3 Notes for Critical Care, so you can follow along with how I do this! Next, I make my dividers for each lecture and list all the chapters that we will be going over just so I have those done now and I don’t have to worry about what we are doing later.
Next, I open my Critical Care book. I have the majority of my books online as Ebooks/pdfs – so this makes it easy to copy/paste, search for things, or screen shot pictures/figures/charts, etc to my notes. First thing I do, is simply go to the table of contents and outline each chapter. If I have time I will go ahead and do this for every lecture, like I am doing now. However, most of the time I only have time to do one lecture at a time.
All of this “outlining” my notes can be done before the lecture ppts are posted online. I usually try to start this process the day or two after we had a previous exam. Just to feel productive. It’s mindless, tedious work – but worth it!
The next step, I am only able to do once the professor has posted their lecture ppts. If I’m lucky they do it the week before lecture, however, majority of the time it won’t get posted until a day or two before lecture (sometimes even the night before). But you gotta deal with what you get!
I begin to copy/paste each slide into my notes. Sometimes if I’m feeling like I want to learn something I’ll type what they have written into my notes. It’s again usually mindless work just copying/pasting this part but either way works!
I will go through all of the ppts notes and match it to my outline that I made from the book’s chapter. I like doing it this way, rather than just making an outline from the ppts because later when I go to study everything is laid out in a way that makes sense and flows. Their ppts are not always in order and then plus itll be easier to see if they skipped any sections in the book. If that does happen, I most likely delete that part of the outline from my notes but it keeps everything so well structured in my brain this way.
I will make sure my “ppt notes” are done before class. This way they will be ready for class to take my “class notes”. During lecture, I use this word doc (the prof has the ppt on the screen so I usually don’t pull mine up) and I will add anything extra my prof says into my notes. Sometimes I do this in red if I want to differentiate between what was said in class vs the ppts and vs what I find in the book. However, other times I just leave it all black and only color the textbook stuff.
I usually don’t begin adding “book stuff” in until its time to study for my exam. But its all about preference and time management! If you have time after lectures or during the week after lectures (which sometimes I do and am able to do it then). But I like doing the book stuff more toward my studying weeks because I’m actually reading and looking through the book. My studying time for exams, usually starts about 2 weeks before an exam – especially because I have so many steps lol so I like to drag out this time and learn things over time rather than memorizing everything in a week.
So next! Is the “book stuff”! Now this is variable, sometimes I get to this part, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the professor, the class, exams, my mood, time, etc. Right now for Critical Care though, it is needed! This is the same professor I had for Med-Surg and her exams are directly from her book – so I’ve learned or have been learning lol. I like to make my book stuff in a different color (here they are in blue). I’ll read, sometimes skim each section and figure out what is important and what I should add to my notes that were not in the ppts.
I don’t go crazy with this, but if I think its something I should know or if itll help just to write it then I write it. For this part, I usually don’t copy/paste 1. because the font, size, and format changes and that drives me CRAZY haha and 2. typing it out helps me remember it.
So again, these next steps of adding in ppt notes and adding in book stuff DOES NOT always happen together. I just have time right now, because we had an exam this week with no lecture afterward.
I have never been good at reading textbooks or for that matter any books at all. I am a slow reader and it takes me about 2-3 times to read a paragraph to understand or remember what I’m reading. This way of going through the book, has helped ALOT with “reading the text”. This does take a little bit of time, but I like to do it during that 2 weeks before an exam to slowly start studying for the test.
Next, is printing my notes! I try to get this done a week before the exam or earlier. If not all of my book notes are completed at this point, I will still print my notes. I’ll still make sure everything is the way I want it before, but I can always hand write in book stuff later if I need to. But I like to start studying my notes a week and half before the exam and I need my notes to be printed in order to do that. This is again, why I try to start adding in book stuff earlier. If I wait on it – once my notes are printed, im less likely to add in or read much of the book.
I used to ONLY print double sided. Recently I’ve been liking the idea of printing single sided, this way I can write any extra notes or diagrams on the back side of the pages when I’m studying. I printed double sided last exam and had no space to write extra notes and I was going crazy!
I don’t want to go too much into how I study after I print the notes but it goes a little something like this:
- Read through once, while highlighting whats important
- Read through a second time, adding in extra book stuff (if not done previously) or just rewriting important things that are typed or that should stick out while I study
- Reread and/or Rewrite important sections on printer paper. When I rewrite my notes – I only summarize things or make it kind of like a study guide.
- Reread notes out loud. Or read to a friend or discuss with a friend!
Here are some pics from my Instagram of notes I’ve rewritten in the past. I don’t always rewrite/summarize notes. For Peds, OB, Med Surg, Psych it was helpful. I’m not doing it for Critical Care right now. I like to do it for notes that are pretty well structured. For example most classes are taught by system or disease or drug – I’ll basically make a page for each.
Thank you for reading! Let me know how you study or what you think is useful. Also, if you have any more questions about what I do – comment below!