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Getting into a Note-Taking Routine

Student taking notes in class

It doesn’t sound all that glamorous, but just like caffeine, two-minute noodles and a large collection of highlighters, a good note-making routine is vital for the survival of every law student, and can help you to avoid spending a frenzied fortnight before exams trying to make some exam notes.

Here’s how to get into a good note making routine, and then turn your weekly lecture notes into awesome exam notes

Weeks 1-5: Deciding on a note-taking approach

You’re probably thinking, “Exam notes? I’m still trying to figure out what this subject is all about!” Although exams seem like a long time away, getting into a routine for creating good notes each week will be worth it when exam preparation starts.

For lecture notes, I usually create separate Word document based on seminar slides for each class. If you like, you can convert PowerPoint slides to rtf format and copy/paste the content into a Word document. I type my class notes in a different coloured font so that it’s easy to distinguish between the information from lecture slides and your own notes. Review your class notes within the 24-hour period after class to help you retain more information.

It is always handy to have a separate document for your cases. You may choose to arrange the cases alphabetically or by topic, or week of semester. Set out two or three columns for facts, principles and the decision in each case. One of my lecturers also suggested including the name of the judge who wrote the leading principle in exam responses to show that you are familiar with case law (and potentially impress your examiner).

Weeks 6-7: Assessment Season

It is okay to slow down on your note-taking routine when assignments are due, but if possible, try not to let your note-taking routine come to a complete halt around mid-semester.

Weeks 8-12: After Assignments

If you slowed down your note-taking routine because of assignments, it is time to kick back into gear again. Use this period to catch up on any weeks that you missed out on.

If you’re on top of your class notes and readings, start to condense your lecture notes into a shorter set of notes for your exams. Make sure you incorporate your teacher’s seminar slides into these notes as these are generally a good indicator of what you need to know for your exams. Put aside an average of two hours for each week’s note summaries.

Week 13: SWOTVAC

Familiarise yourself with your exam notes – use coloured tabs and highlight important points. This is also the week for practice exams. Use your notes to answer past exam questions, and further refine your exam notes if necessary.

Week 14: Exams

It’s crunch time. You have worked hard all semester, and it’s time to put those exam notes to good use!

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