Appearing for any competitive exam requires a lot of preparation. Students should be ready to face this challenge in the best possible way. Though there is no one way of studying, there are ways to study more effectively and with less stress and more enjoyment. It is important to know how to make use of the sources available to you in the best possible way. It is wise to take a three pronged approach to preparation, reading to learn, making effective notes and able to write answers to various kinds of questions.
Students are often faced with the daunting task of making voluminous notes. Now the question arises as to why make notes at all. There are several good reasons, one is that you cannot make notes without understanding the given topic, since you have to pick out the important points and try to summarise them. Next is that writing down any information helps you to remember it better. Thirdly, it makes a good practice for thinking and writing out essays. Fourth, it will prompt you to revise your work since it does not take a long time to go through a set of well made notes. Lastly, it helps you in your final revision by reminding you of the most important points of each topic.
The next question is when should one make notes? One should make notes from the very beginning as soon as you have done your studying when the material is fresh in mind. This helps to fix it in your memory. It is better to make notes from all possible sources, from what you read, what you hear and from what you do. After making the first brief notes, it can be expanded and organised properly. You can then keep adding information to it from time to time. One important thing to remember is to never treat a set of notes as the final version.
There are different methods of making notes and one should decide which method suits you the best. There are two types of making notes, one is the LINEAR NOTES and the other PATTERN NOTES.
Let us start with Linear notes first, it is a method in which you condense the material you have read using headings and sub headings and jotting down the most important points. This method works best when making notes from a book where the material is already properly organised. But one disadvantage of this method is that you end up copying a lot of material from the book which defeats the very purpose of condensing.
The right way to use this method is to use loose sheets of paper instead of an exercise book since it is easier to keep adding information. It is a good idea to leave space on each sheet of paper for additional information. Another way to make your notes more interesting is to use colors, block letters, making boxes and highlighting as and when necessary. All this will immediately draw our attention to the actual contents of our notes and make it more clear and comprehensible.
We now come to Pattern Notes. For this we have to begin the topic at the centre of the page. Each line radiating from it represents a branch of the main idea. Each point is written as briefly as possible using a key word or a phrase. It is a better method to adopt because it is more flexible than making Linear notes. One can add extra information to it at any point without any problem. Second advantage is that we can see the whole pattern at one go without actually turning the pages. Thirdly we can indicate the links between different topics more easily than we can do in a linear method. Another advantage of pattern notes is that it is exceptionally useful when making notes from memory for revision as you keep jotting down points as and when they occur to you. This makes it easier to revise for exams and writing out essays as only brief key words are used. Lastly, it is easier to remember as notes is made in a shape format.
But this method has some disadvantages as well. If there are too many facts and too much of information, your pattern becomes messy and over crowded. Using key words can remind you of basic ideas but when it comes to remembering details, this method cannot be sufficient. Therefore the most effective way of making good notes from the sources available is to use a combination of these two methods. One important thing to remember is that for many subjects your notes will have to include diagrams and sketch maps. They must be accurate and labelled very clearly.
For example while making notes for Science, the general lay out has to follow the one given by your teacher with as little variation as possible. There are four basic stages which should always be there, Purpose, Method, Result and Conclusion If there is a description it will have to include a diagram and if it is recorded data, it will require a table or a graph.
Whatever method you decide to follow, one thing to remember is to keep your notes handy at all times and in a proper file. It is a good idea to use colored flags to demarcate different topics. With such systematic preparation, a student can face the challenge of any competitive exam with confidence.