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While notes are an extremely well-intentioned action which a student is taking towards achieving their dream HSC result there is very little progress being made towards this goal by merely taking ‘notes’. 

Having the most comprehensive, colour coded, well organised ‘notes’ will mean nothing if a student hasn’t hardwired the content of these notes and applied them to every question they can get their hands on. (Stay with me on this as I can feel some of you being challenged around the challenging of note taking)

Up until Year 11, competing ‘notes’ is the go to study activity to prepare for an exam. This activity was often enough to achieve a reasonable result without over or under performing. Everyone was happy with notes.

Unfortunately, the completion of note taking as a study exercise in Year 11 and 12 is simply not going to cut it. Year 11/12 = The ultra competitive zone of the final years of schooling. The main reason notes are not an effective task is that there is zero struggle in the act of creating notes. As a member of CoWorks you will have almost certainly heard us say ‘Without struggle there is no progress’ so if there is no struggle in creating notes, there is also no progress. Given students up until Year 10 or 11 have been taught that the best way to prepare for an exam is to complete ‘notes’ then we do understand they are most likely going to continue with this strategy throughout year 12 as well. So with this in mind we then need to ensure that students are bringing the struggle to their note-taking to ensure that there is progress. 

How can we bring struggle to ‘notes’??

By testing our ability to recall the content from memory (just as students will need to do in the exam) and then applying the content of the notes to exam style questions.

This process of testing and applying should be done on a consistent basis (daily preferably) to ensure the ‘notes’ are hardwired and ready to be recalled in the actual exam room. Tools such as flashcards or the HSC CoWorks Mindmap Pad can support this behaviour.

Why do students gravitate towards ‘notes’ when studying? 

  • If asked whether a student would prefer to write notes or do a practice essay the vast majority of students would choose notes as it is well within their comfort zone and a much easier task.

  • There is no chance of getting notes ‘wrong’ or even struggling with creating notes.

  • Students often don’t know what to do other than ‘notes’ so it doesn’t require much brainpower to decide what to do.

  • Doing ‘notes’ is a deeply engrained habit that is following the path of least resistance. 

  • Some teachers insist students complete ‘notes’ as homework

  • While each of the above reasons might be true, it doesn’t make the completion of notes an effective study strategy for preparing students for assessment tasks or exams. 

If, however, students are able to consistently bring the struggle to every ‘note taking’ session they will ensure they are giving their brain the very best opportunity to perform when it counts, in the exam room under exam conditions. 

At HSC CoWorks our student key behaviours provide the foundations of effective study. If the Key Behaviours are in place, everything else will take care of itself.