5 Mistakes you’re Making when Writing Notes


Ahh the satisfying sound of your pile of chemistry/physics/maths/[insert subject here] notes hitting the table as you’ve completed trawling through numerous textbooks and class notes in order to make the ‘perfect’ set of notes.

But are your notes really that perfect??

To test how complete, they are answer the following few questions:

  1. Do you have relevant HSC/Trial questions for each topic?
  2. Are your notes concise with drawings rather than large paragraphs?
  3. Are they structured using syllabus dot points?
  4. Are they multi coloured? Do important points stand out?
  5. Do they address your weaknesses in depth? Have you expanded on areas you struggle with in depth and detail?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of the above questions, then you need to read the following guide, on how you should be writing your notes.

Mistake 1: Not incorporating HSC questions into your notes

Pretty much the biggest mistake you could commit in terms of creating a set of notes to use during your HSC year. Without a focus on exams and how you should be answering exam style questions, you’ll be severely disadvantaging yourself in terms of maximising your time spent studying.

By including exam questions into your notes, you’ll be able to understand how the theory is applied in an exam situation, how you should be answering questions on those topics.

How do you fix this?

Fairly straightforward, start digging into exams and try to find questions that are relevant to your syllabus dot point. You might like to use past paper books from the success one range or books from the Dot point series.

Mistake 2: Long encyclopedia style notes

Notes are meant to be concise summaries of a topic. In the process of writing them you should be making sure that you synthesise the information and express it in your own words.

However, far too many people think that copying word for word from a textbook is studying, or writing in massive paragraphs means their doing a lot of work. Neither of these could be further from the truth.

Instead, try incorporating diagrams, mind maps and pictures into your notes. A picture says a thousand words, and can save your writing hand in the process. It’s far easier to visualise a picture than it is a large paragraph of writing.

Mistake 3: Structuring your notes based on your textbook rather than the syllabus

Unfortunately for you BOSTES haven’t actually endorsed any textbook as a reliable source of information to study the HSC. What they have given you is a syllabus for the subject. This syllabus should be treated as a bible for each of your subjects and as such you should be structuring your notes based on the dot points from the syllabus.

So how do you actually structure notes with the syllabus in mind?

Basically, your syllabus has a bund of dot points it’s split up into. For example, in the chemistry syllabus one of the first dot points is: “Identify the industrial source of ethylene from the cracking of some of the fractions from the refining of petroleum”

Using this as a heading, proceed to answer the question or write down information in relation to what the dot point is explaining/asking.

Mistake 4: Not making things stand out

In addition to writing in massive paragraphs, some people have an aversion to using colours or highlighters in their notes. Perhaps it may be the trauma from early geography lessons, but using colour in your notes is incredibly important in your journey to memorising them, as well as helping you identify key bits of information when you need it.

When you start writing in small sentences and incorporating diagrams, make sure you have a highlighter handy. This way you can highlight certain points that trouble you, or are incredibly important when answering questions or understanding the topic. His way, before an exam you can just scan through your notes picking up the key points and skimming over the rest.

Mistake 5: Not tailoring your notes to your weaknesses

The final mistake most people make is that they tend to write their notes too generally. Your notes should be read only by you, so make sure you personalise them with short hand or handy tips and tricks that you need to use in an exam. Moreover, after each section you should add in a small list of common mistakes you make when answering questions on that topic. This way you can read through the list the previous night to ensure you don’t end up making those mistakes in the exam.

Bonus study tip: This list also provides you with a list of objectives you can check off when doing past papers. How does this work?

Basically, once you compile that list, you should be trying to eradicate those mistakes by doing past papers and questions. Once you can do various questions without making that mistake, you can tick it off your checklist. Now that mistake is eradicated and you should be good to go in an exam.


So there you have it, 5 mistakes most people make when writing notes, as well as 5 ways you can fix these mistakes. If you need help studying or learning the content for maths or English feel free to contact us below!


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