Making Notes

Rather than writing everything out in longwinded sentences, notes just put down the bare facts using headings and bullet points e.g.

Good study space has

    • focus on page
    • not in own shadow
no distractions
    • no TV, pets, people
table & straight chair

Mind Maps

It’s important to see how bits fit together. Mind maps are a great way to set out important facts and show how they link together. They are also a fun and creative way to transfer information from your books into your head. Mind maps start off with the central subject and then all the other facts ‘branch out’ from there, with sub-branches and twigs (to continue the tree metaphor). They use colour and colour coding and arrows to show links.

Some Mind Mapping Tricks

  • First draft: start by putting all the information you need onto the paper. (Turn your paper sideways – this gives you more mapping space.) It’s important at this stage to write everything down without worrying about the order, how important it is or how it relates to other facts/information. This is known as a brain dump or brain storm.
  • Next, move on to the sorting stage, when you begin to colour-code and make the links. It will probably start to look pretty messy at this stage, however you’re doing great sorting work in your mind, and you’re coming to grips with the topic.
  • Final stage: write it all out again clearly, using colour, arrows, symbols.

Some Mind Map Resources:


Mnemonics (from Mnemosyne, the Greek Goddess of remembrance/memory) are a system designed to help your memory.
For remembering lists take the first letter of each item and use it to start another word and then use all the new words to make a funny, non-sense sentence which, because it’s funny or makes no sense, you’ll find easy to remember.

Example 1: Here is a mnemonic sentence that gives the names of the seven continents of the earth via the first two letters of (almost) every word:

Eat An Aspirin After A Naff Sandwich

(Europe, Antarctica, Asia, Africa, Australia, N.America, S.America)

Example 2: Period 1-2 of the Periodic Table (Elements 1-10)

Happy Henry Lithely Began Baking Cakes, Not Omitting Four Necessities

H He Li Be B C N O F Ne

(hydrogen. helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon)

You can also use mnemonics to help you remember other facts. Try the websites for some great examples (or Google for more or get truly creative and make up your own!

Some Mnemonics Resources:


These are like mnemonics because they use the first letter of the key fact but instead of making other words, they use the letters together to make up a new word. By knowing what the first letter is it again helps you to remember what the key fact is. For example, to remember what functions need to be carried out before an object is said to be living, the acronym MRS GREN is used. (Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, Nutrition).

M – movement

R – respiration

S – sensitivity

G – growth

R – reproduction

E – excretion

N – nutrition

Flash Cards

You will find these useful to help you learn key words, chemical symbols and formulae for equations.

1. Cut out cards approximately 5cm by 2cm. On one side write the word, symbol or equations, on the other side write the meaning or answer.

2. Test yourself using about 10 cards at a time. Look at the word side of the card and say the answer. Check the back of the card. If you got it right, put it in the ‘got it right’ pile. If you didn’t, put it in the ‘try again’ pile. Move onto the next card and repeat the process until you have been through all the cards.

3. Now go back to the ‘try again’ pile and go through these cards again until you have got all of them right.

4. To finish, go through the ten cards again to be sure you know them.

Next time you use the flash cards, pick another ten cards and go through the same process.
Make sure that you revisit the cards in the ‘got it right’ pile regularly so that you remember them. You need to get the right answer at least five times before you can be sure of remembering it!

As a variation, look at the back of the card and see how well you know what’s on the front. IF this is the answer, what is the question?

Wrap-around Cards

Another good way to test yourself to see if you know the meanings of key words is to make a wrap-around-card.

Cut out a piece of card and put V cuts along the side, enough for all the key words on the left side and the meanings on the right side.

Put a hole in the top of the card and tie a long piece of string or wool at the top.
Write in all the key words or symbols along the left side.
On the other side write in the definitions or meanings but do not put them alongside the correct key word (mix them up).

Now use the string to wrap around the card connecting the correct key word with the correct definition.

The string will form a pattern on the back of the card. Draw lines alongside the string on the back of the card so that you check to see if you are correct the next time you do this exercise.

An example of its use is shown in this chemical symbols wrap-around-card.

N.B. You could also do this as a mix & match exercise on a piece of paper.

Stick it on the Wall!

Please check with your parents first!!! You’ll see why when you read on!

Write the subject name in colour in the middle of a large piece of paper and then stick it on the wall above eye level. (Blu-tak or the equivalent may be a good idea.) As you remember or learn facts about the topic write each one piece of information on a separate piece of paper and then stick it on the paper.

This study method could be another way of starting a mind map.

(The toilet wall is a good place to put this sort of mind map.)

Summarising Key Points

Use the RAP technique

R = read the information

A = ask yourself what are the main points

P = put it in your own words

It is important to summarise your notes by putting them into your own words.

Use FEE to revise your notes

F = fact e.g. Fact – metal expands when heated.
E = explanation e.g. Explanation – the particles in the metal vibrate and move further apart when heat energy is applied causing the volume to increase.
E = example e.g. Example – railway tracks expand on hot days. This is why there are gaps between tracks so that there is room for expansion and the tracks therefore don’t buckle or twist.

Write down the main fact, write the explanation about the fact (what does it mean) and then give an example about the fact.

This technique is also known as SEX for Statement, Explanation, eXample.

e.g. One of the themes explored in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the strength of love. (statement)
The young couple are prepared to give up all the things they hold dear, even their families, for this new love. (explanation) Juliet says “Deny thy father and refuse thy name,” Juliet asks, “Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.” (example)

Use a study buddy

Study buddies can

  • encourage each other
  • challenge each other e.g. to complete work within a certain time frame; to do an extra half hour’s
    study on a Sunday afternoon, …
  • help each other revise by asking questions on the topic
  • tell you about what you missed when you were absent
  • help you to understand the work missed or that you don’t understand
  • pretend to be the pupil so you can ‘teach’ them. (Teaching someone means you can use all 3 learning
    styles of visual, aural and kinaesthetic.)
  • test you using flash cards
  • make up a mix and match test for you

You may have different study buddies for different subjects.

Ask your mates for ideas of how a study buddy can help.

Teach, teach, teach

Pretend you are a teacher and teach the dog, the cat, the window, even the floor, all you know about equations. You’ll remember it so much better when you’ve drawn in on a piece of paper and explained to the curtain how it works.

You’ve used all three types of learning – you’ve read and written it [visual], spoken and heard it [aural] and you’ve performed it, especially if you were standing while you were teaching. Don’t worry about feeling a fool. You’ll get used to it and if it works it’s worth it. You could come top of the class!


Just reading through your notes is NOT a very effective way to study. If you’re going to spend time revising, use one of the methods above because they’re much more efficient at getting the stuff into your head. BUT it is better than no study at all.