How to take notes

Note taking is a skill this isn’t really taught. You are just forced to work out how best to remember all the information that is thrown at you during the day – but often walk away with a notebook filled with scribbles that mean nothing when you read it back weeks later.

Here are 5 of the most effective note taking strategies to help you write awesome notes:

1. The Cornell Method

Divide your page in to 3 parts.

At the top will be a big open section for notes that you take during class. Write everything down that you think will be important.

In the second section, you re-write the most important parts again. This happens after class, when you can re-read your notes and find the key parts.

The final section will be a summary – write a paragraph summarising the notes from the day, so that in a month or so when you need those notes you can just read the summary to see if it is valuable to you.

2. Use a flow chart

Write the subject at the top, then use a flow chart to break it down. Each page is organised by topic, but then gets refined in to sub-topics as the flow chart goes along.

This is an excellent method for visual learners!

3. The dot point method

Similar to the flow chart above, you use dot points to list all the important parts of a subject.

Give it a main heading, then sub headings and then dot points under each of those.

Really simple and effective in the lead up to exams.

4. Keep things simple

This isn’t really a unique method, but is a general rule when it come to taking notes.

The point of notes is two fold. One is for you to be able to remember them and the second is so you can look back over them in a few months time and catch up at a glance.

The simpler the better.

5. Find what works for you

Some people colour code with highlighters. Some underline furiously. You need to find what is going to work best for you via trial and error.

Try a flow chart and see how it feels. Try breaking your page up in to 3’s.

Ultimately the real test will come in a few months when you need to revise your notes – and you can test how easy it is to understand what you are trying to convey.


Note taking is a huge part of year 12, so owning the process is really important. Keep practicing and master it!

Nic Rothquel

Founder, HSCmarking.com.au

How to start Year 12 the right way

First up a huge round of applause for making it this far.

12 years of schooling has lead you up to this point and you really do deserve a pat on the back.

Year 12 is going to be huge. There will be triumphs and setbacks and there’s a good chance you will want to throw in the towel at some point.

But, it is also your opportunity to show the people who care about you what you are really capable of.

One of the things you will notice about year 12 is that it hits you in waves. You’ll be coasting along thinking life is awesome, then in one week you’ll receive 18 assessment task notifications and suddenly the sun won’t shine as bright.

Here are 5 things you should do now to ensure the year ahead runs as smooth as possible:

1. Get a diary bro.

A real paper diary, an app on your phone, your calendar on your computer – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you use it.

You need to be the master of your time. You can’t depend on other people to keep you accountable when it comes to time management. Use your diary like a rule book – create tasks and reminders and stick to them like they are life or death.

2. Ensure you’ve covered any holes in preliminary content

Many subjects like maths and sciences build on year 11 content, and if you aren’t on top of it you are going to get left behind.

This week, revise those subjects – look over your yearly exam and make sure any grey areas become clear ASAP.

3. Work out your best focus hours.

We are not all the same. Whilst we are all required to be at school between 9 and 3, that doesn’t mean they are our most productive hours of the day.

I’ve learnt over the years that my personal best focus hours are between 10pm and 2am. This is for a number of reasons – wife and kids are in bed, the house is quiet and I can’t really communicate with other people – so it is where the magic happens.

You make not be able to stay up so late, but still try to identify the best hours for you. Maybe you work best early in the morning, or right after school, or after dinner. If you can nail this sweet spot, you will find you are far more productive in those hours than at any other time – and one hour of study during this time is more effective than 4 hours at another time.

4. Identify your biggest time wasters.

Using that diary from point 1, track your time this week. In particular, pay attention to time spent on things that don’t move you towards your goal. Facebook, Netflix, Xbox – these things need to be viewed as a luxury in year 12 and not an everyday thing.

You may not need to cut them out now, but at least when things start getting busy, you’ll know how to find a few extra hours in each day.

5. Write your goal down.

Few things motivate you like having a goal that you see every day.

Take some time to work out what you want the year ahead to look like. Come up with a goal – is it dux of your school? A certain ATAR? A postion in a class?

Write it in your diary (see point 1) so you can see it every day. Once you’ve written down the goal, work backwards to work out what you need to do to make it happen.

Your goal might be to come first in English – so working backwards from this might mean getting 20/20 in every assessment task. Make notes on how you can make this happen and continue moving backwards.

Having a visible goal will make year 12 so much easier.


Year 12 is going to be huge, but I know you can master it. Keep going and make it count!

Nic Rothquel

Founder, HSCmarking.com.au

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