How to create and use summary notes

Creating summary notes is a popular revision technique.

What are summary notes?

Summary notes are condensed summarised versions of your regular notes about a particular topic or subject matter.

Why create summary notes?

There are two key benefits to creating summary notes.

1.  The process helps

To effectively summarise your notes you will need to understand the materials and topic.

So if done properly, the process of summarising gives you an opportunity to revisit the topic and forces you to understand what you are writing (especially true if you use your own words).

Also, reorganising information is a useful way to help information stick in our memories.

2.  The notes are useful

Another benefit comes from the finished article (your new notes).

You will have a great set of condensed notes which you can now use in conjunction with many other revision and memory techniques.

Tips for creating summary notes

  • Consider writing your summary notes on index cards (they are compact and portable)
  • Keep your new notes a short as possible
  • Try to use your own words
  • Use colours if appropriate and helpful
  • Include key terms
  • Be inventive in how you structure and organise the content (and topics)

How should I use my summary notes?

  • Review them periodically (remember, revision spaced out over time works really well)
  • Use them as prompts when testing yourself
  • Use them with other revision techniques
  • Organise them and make connections

What’s wrong with just reading my full notes?

It’s a well accepted fact that just reading your revision notes does very little to help you learn information.

So, if the bulk of your revision time is going to be spent just reading notes, you may struggle on exam day.

For information to move from short term memory into long term memory we need to:

  • Associate it with other information that is already in our long term memory
  • Give meaning to the information
  • Practice remembering it (recall strengthens a memory)

Read our post about ineffective revision techniques to avoid.

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