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Why Are Notes So Important At Medical School?

Generally speaking, you’ll be learning the equivalent of an A-Level Biology syllabus every nine weeks when you’re at Medical School – and good note-taking is the main way you can stay on top of this.

Taking notes isn’t about recording what’s said in a Medicine lecture, or explained in a text book. Instead, it’s a tool to help you comprehend and memorise the material. Being good at taking notes will help you to build up a body of quality notes that will help you to revise for Med School exams – and beyond.

Note-Taking Process

The process for taking notes at Medical School is:

  1. Recording what has been said during a lecture or in a textbook.
  2. Understanding that information, drawing links, organising information.
  3. Consolidating the information in your long term memory.

It’s important to have a record of what was said in a lecture or a textbook – and the simple act of taking notes can help with future retention whether or not they are reviewed.

This means you should avoid transcribing what is said verbatim. Where possible, you should put into your own words or diagrams because that will increase the cognitive work you will need to do. This helps increase the chance of retention.

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The Outline Method

The outline method is one of the most common techniques used by Medical Students to take notes from lectures and turn them into something more useful in a way that encourages active learning.

To do this, you simply take the main topic and then add subtopics and nest notes below that. For example, the outline method might look like:

  • Note-Taking strategy notes
    • Outline method
      • most common technique
      • encourages active learning

Many people like to use the outline method because it’s clean and easy to use. You can do this with a pen and paper, typing on a laptop, writing on an iPad, etc. It also encourages you to think about which ideas really are the main topics or subtopics, and which ideas should be further nested below them.

Mind Maps Method

This is similar to the outline method, except you use mind maps as a way to visually show how different subtopics are related.

Many students like this because it allows you to put concepts and topics into a visual schema, which can aid memorisation. However, it’s easy for notes in this form to be visually convoluted and distract you from the information.

Flash Cards Method

Using flash cards should be a key part of your revision planning, as it helps you convert your notes into digestible bite-sized bits of information to help you consolidate and learn the key information.

The general process for making good flash cards is:

  1. Create a single deck of cards for each exam, not a fragmented set across numerous exams.
  2. Make sure you understand the information before putting onto a card. They’re designed for final memorisation, and it’s much harder to memorise what you do not understand.
  3. Use more cards, with less information on each. This is easier to memorise than fewer cards with more information.

Webinar Replay

Replay our note-taking skills webinar to learn about these concepts in more detail, and see how Quizlet can help with your Med School revision:

Don’t forget to sign up for our webinar to get revision tips for your first Med School exams.

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