Organizing Your Exam Notes

Posted by Sophie Morgan on March 5, 2019

A YU Perspective | Get In The Know | Inside Perspectives | On-board to York

It’s almost exam season, Lions! That means it’s time to start getting your notes in order, so you’ll be ready to ace your finals. In today’s #YUBlog post, I’ll be sharing my top five tips to help you approach this term’s exams with confidence and organization on your side! These tips have worked great for me, so I encourage you to try them, but it’s always important to find what works for you!

A photo of a person annotating their notes.
For more exam preparation tips, be sure to check out our previous #YUBlog post, “The Lion Pride Study & Assignment Guide.”

Develop an Organization System that Works for You

A photo of sticky notes and pens inside a box.
York U’s Learning Skills Services is a great resource to help you get organized!

If your notes are scattered about, the first thing you need to do is organize them! I recommend organizing your notes first by class and then by unit. Each unit can then be colour-coded, identified with sticky notes or separated with individual folders and/or binders. The key here is to find tools that will help you feel more organized – and don’t forget to make it fun! This step may take the most amount of time, but it will definitely be worth it.

If you’re unsure about how to develop an organization system that works for you, I recommend checking out Learning Skills Services and their workshops. Their Exam Prep workshop and Secrets of Academic Success workshop are great places to start! You can check out the LSS Workshop Calendar for a complete schedule.

LSS has also expanded their drop-in hours, so you can now visit them in person on the second floor of Scott Library or via their virtual drop-in on Tuesday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and Thursday from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm!

Success Tip: Have files scattered all around your desktop or in a large folder? Filter your files by “Date Created” to see which content you covered first!

Look Back at the Syllabus

An image of a person typing on their laptop.
Your course outlines are great guides that can help you organize your notes!

Your course syllabus will probably be one of the most useful tools during your organization process because it highlights key information, such as major course concepts, themes and units. I suggest using your syllabus to narrow down the areas of your notes that you should focus on and to decide on which topics are the most important.

Look Back on Tests and Quizzes

An image of an open textbook, a notebook, and a pen.
Using the information from your tests and quizzes, you can go back to your notes and textbooks to review any material needed!

In addition to the syllabus, your tests and quizzes are not only great study tools, but they can also help you organize your notes. Tests and quizzes cover a certain period of time in the course when your professor went over specific material. This makes it easier to track down what you may have missed, what you may need to improve on and what you did well on.

It’s always a great idea to cross reference the contents of previous tests with your notes while paying attention to the areas of the test that you may want to improve on. This should help you see where your notes are lacking and where they are up-to-date. I have found that this more targeted approach can help uncover specific information that I may need to add to my notes. 

Success Tip: Looking for more tips to help get through the second semester? Check out our previous #YUBlog post, “Overcoming the Second-Semester Slump (or more Tips on How to Prep for Exams)”!

Organize a Review Session with Your Peers

A photo of two students studying together.
Study sessions are a great time to exchange notes.

Study groups are always a great way to review course content, so why not use them to catch up on your notes? During these review sessions, you can compare your notes with your peers and even exchange notes. A study buddy can also point you in the right direction for course content and readings that you may have missed.

Maintain the Organization System

An image of a student typing on their laptop with notes next to them.
You can visit our previous #YUBlog post, “Easy Tips to Prepare for Finals,” for more ways to prepare for exams this term!

As tempting as it may seem to go back to old ways, it’s super important to keep your notes organized as you study for exams. This means that when you’re done studying, you put your notes away neatly, instead of leaving them laid out across your desk or shoving them in your backpack.

Trust me – when your notes are organized, your mind is organized, and you will feel at ease knowing where all your materials are (without worrying if they are crumpled or lost somewhere in your backpack).

Success Tip: Depending on your classes, course material in one class may be useful for another one that you are currently taking or one that you will take down the road. This means that keeping your notes organized throughout your studies can be a huge benefit in the long run!

Now that you have these five organizational tips in the bag, you’re ready to prep for exams. I hope that the information and resources in this #YUBlog post help you feel ready for your final evaluations this term!

Have any questions about anything mentioned in this blog post? Leave a comment below or tweet us at @YorkUStudents!

Sophie Morgan
Sophie Morgan

Sophie Morgan is a second-year Professional Writing and French Studies double major at York U. She is an avid writer, a baking enthusiast and a full-time cat-sitter. She hopes that her posts will inform and inspire both prospective and current York U students!

See other posts by Sophie Morgan

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