It's lunchtime, and you have a history test next period that you haven't even started studying for. Trying to find your notes, you dig through your binder and finally discover them at the bottom of your backpack with a piece of gum stuck to them. Keeping your class materials organized can be overwhelming when you have numerous courses to attend each day. However, taking detailed notes and devising a system to file them can make studying easier and help you succeed.
Take Organized Notes
Taking notes isn't a haphazard process of writing down key words from lectures, nor is it taking dictation of every word your teacher says. Good note taking uses headings and subheadings to organize ideas, much the way you do when you make an outline. While listening and organizing ideas simultaneously can take some practice, South Brunswick High School's study skills page suggests paying attention to verbal cues, such as repeated ideas, key words and topic shifts. Reviewing and editing your notes after class while the lecture is fresh in your mind can also make them more accurate.
Label Your Notes
In addition to taking organized notes, clearly labeling your notes can help you retrieve them more easily. At the beginning of each class, label the top of a fresh page of notebook paper with the date and the chapters covered in that day's lecture. After each day's lecture, you can file the notes in your binder, keeping them in chronological order. This will not only make studying easier, but also show you how the different concepts you've learned build on each other as you read through your notes.
While three-ring binders are a common organizational tool, you can benefit from them more by getting a separate binder for each class rather than just one. You can put your notes in the center rings, along with plenty of blank notebook paper for additional lectures and use the side pockets for homework assignments and handouts. To avoid overloading your backpack, you can also get thin plastic binders and put folders in the center rings if they don't have pockets. To add a personal touch, you can decorate your binders with stickers and pictures of your favorite athletes or music stars.
Organize Your Environment
Organizing your binder and notes will only be partially helpful if the rest of your academic environment is messy. Keeping your locker, backpack and bedroom tidy will ensure better focus and decrease the chances of your notes or important papers getting lost. For example, you might maintain your backpack by throwing away any accumulations of trash at the end of each day or take some time at lunch to clean out the papers gathering on your locker floor. Having a clean, organized desk at home can also help you concentrate as you study.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images