Note-taking tips

If taking notes for you doesn’t help you, don’t take notes. There are high-achieving students that do not take notes.

The primary goal of taking notes is to condense the material so that you don’t have to refer back to the lectures or the textbook when you’re studying for the exam. You want your notes to only contain what you need to know and not other fluff so that you can study efficiently.


  • Super helpful for visual learners
  • the diagrams only need to make sense to you .
  • Diagrams are really helpful to study physiology. Draw out neurons, xylem and phloem
  • Use colour. ions flowing in can be red, ions flowing out can be green.


  •  It helps you remember because you’re engaging your visual memory better when you use different colours rather than the same boring old colour. The key is keep your mind from getting bored.
    This year I’m using: 48 Coloured Pens. I seriously bought 48 pens. If you scroll back to my posts during final exams, I wrote about using 6 or so pens within two days. I wrote a LOT.


  • I haven’t used this tip yet but I was told that charts are great for studying pharmacology.


  • If powerpoints are provided by the professor
  • This will save you a lot of time during the lecture!
  • Unfortunately, a lot of my first year classes did not provide powerpoint but my second year level courses did. On the plus side first years, you get to use your favourite Moleskine or other cute notebook. Yay!


  • Exam questions often test little details so listen carefully for your professor to hint at what little detail is important.


  • That said, for your long-term learning, it’s more important to know what big picture concepts are important. Indicate what these are for yourself because it’s easy to forget when you have pages and pages of notes that you took 3 months ago.


  • Writing by hand helps you remember better than typing. There is research to back this up!
  • It’s easier to draw diagrams and sketch molecules and formulas.


  • Lined paper will get crumpled and lost. You will cry if you lose that page of notes that your professor said that you absolutely must remember for your midterm.
  • A notebook also keeps everything in order so you don’t have to sort through a pile asking yourself if where is that sheet that comes after the sheet that says “see next sheet”.
  • Notebooks that I’ll be using this semester: Extra Large Moleskines. These are more expensive than the 25 cent notebooks that I used last year but I believe that paying for high quality is important. I also know that having a nicer notebook will motivate me to take neater notes

I used a two pocket Folder.

  • One side containing the class syllabus, the class schedule, old assignments that got handed back are tucked in the back of this side
  • The other side contains the current class’s assigned readings or assignment, plus new handouts that I got.


The colour system I used was:

  • Yellow notebook and folder for Physics
  • Red notebook and folder for Chemistry
  • Blue notebook and folder for Biology
  • Purple folder for English. A notebook wasn’t too necessary because I liked to write on the printed out poem.
  • Argyle print notebook and Panda folder for Math. Gotta be totally random for one of the classes.


  • I did this for Microbiology but not for other classes.
  • Rewrite the most important concepts
  • Rewrite this again and again until you have it memorized
  • Close to the exam, go back to the powerpoints and fill in details
  • Credits to Andrea for introducing me to this method of rewriting notes

Books about how to succeed in college and get good grades

I’ve read all of these books over and over again. I bought and gave my Cal Newport books to my younger brother.They made a HUGE difference to the way I study and the way I approach university. I’ve put my absolute most favourite books here!

How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students

I just bought a copy of this for myself on Sunday.  I’m going to try to implement my favourite tips and record how they help or not help me here on this blog this upcoming semester. As a writer myself, I want to support writers by buying physical copies of their books. I do not want to post the specific advice that Cal gives in his book to respect the work he put in to write his book. So if you want to do this challenge to become outstanding students together with me, please pick up a copy of his book and work on trying “win at college”. (But I’m Canadian so I’m trying to win at university haha)
How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less

Don’t we all want Straight As? If you can’t tell already, Cal Newport is one of my favourite authors. This one contains detailed tips on how to write a great paper, take notes for math classes which is different from taking notes in humanities classes, how to manage time so you get good grades and still have time to go to the gym and hit up a toga party. #goals


Medical School 2.0: An Unconventional Guide to Learn Faster, Ace the USMLE, and Get Into Your Top Choice Residency

If I get into medical school, I follow the advice in this book. I have already used the Paul Farmer study method this year to study for MICB 202 and it helped. I also got introduced to the notion of Paul Farmer through this book. How have I not known who Paul Farmer is all these years? Crazy, considering how much I look up to Paul Farmer now.

How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)

This is a book that guided through the high school and helped me get into university. As an university student, I still find these tips helpful. If you’re a high school student trying to tune up your study habits and get into a competitive post-secondary education, read it!!

SUPER SECRET TIP for reading to end of this post: If you’re starting or already in university, you can get free shipping! Use it to buy your textbooks, leisure reading books, school supplies, new computer, clothes, whatever. Join Prime Student  FREE Two-Day Shipping for College Students

Thank you for reading!

Eng 112 – Strategies for University Writing

You’ll learn:

  • critical reading of academic texts
  • how to write to communicate effectively

Class structure

  • mandatory regular attendance
  • participation in class activities and discussions.
  • In-class essays
  • Take-home essay(s)
  • 3-hour final examination at the end of the course where you’ll be asked to write essays

Lots of

  • Implementing “They Say I Say” into your writing style. You’ll find out what They Say I Say means every soon.
  • Pointing out what established academics have done wrong in their writing

How to get a good grade:

  • Actually do the assigned reading before class
  • Bring the book or print out the reading to bring to class so you can refer to it during discussion.
  • You can bring a digital version.
  • IMPORTANT: Speak in class!! 1) you get participation marks. 2) you force yourself to organize and vocalize your thoughts. 3) your professor will learn that you’re alive.
  • Your professor will often not write or present any notes but you should take notes on what is being discussed.
  • Take notes on good points that your classmates bring up.
  • Start working on your final paper early
  • Choose a final paper topic that you’re personally interested. Do not choose a topic solely because you think your professor will like it. If you find your own topic boring, you will write a boring paper and your professor will cry while drinking coffee trying to read your paper.
  • Go get at least two physical books when you’re conducting background research.
  • The UBC Libraries are great resources.
  • Spend time working on a good thesis.
  • Talk to your professor at office hours if you have questions

Suggested professor: Dr Lorcan Fox (he’s hilarious!)


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