How to stop drowning in notes (or lack thereof) – PART 2

Four weeks into the term and twenty weeks behind on notes?  Or perhaps you’ve written yourself a not so mini miniVET guide (other vet guides are available) and can’t remember a single thing you’ve written? Worry not (or perhaps do because I don’t really know what I’m talking about) because I’m going to share how I have made my notes slightly less terrible.

Now it is extremely true that everyone learns in different ways and different people work at different speeds (everyone is special etc.etc.etc.) so I’ve tried my best to make this work. Promise.


1. Get organised (preferably with the help of Excel)

Now I can’t take credit for actually coming up with this one but it’s great so I’m including it anyway. First write down all of your lecture titles in one column, then title the next common ‘notes’ and the column after that ‘revised’. Then tick whatever you’ve done. Simple. You should get something that looks a little bit like this:

Screenshot 2018-10-29 at 22.27.53

Now, I’ve made mine a bit fancier by having two revised columns and a traffic light section but you do you. Essentially it’s there to let you know what needs doing (So I still need to write up SA large intestine surgery, whoops) and keep track of how many times you’ve revisited the content. You can also do all of that fun conditional formatting that we got taught in primary school so there’s that I suppose.


2. Look at your notes

Okay so I know we kind of covered this last time but the way we go about fixing whatever problem you’re having starts with figuring out exactly what is wrong so do that. Cool. Now I want you to ask yourself a question: Can you test yourself based on them? The truth is, there is only so much we can gain from reading through the same thing over and over again, what you need to do is try and recall it from memory to see if its actually living inside your brain.

We can do this in a couple of ways: Flashcards or pretend flashcards.


So flashcards are my favourite thing for a couple of reasons:

  1. They allow you to test yourself
  2. They stop you writing out your whole lecture because there’s only a small amount of space.

The key thing is though that you have to make them yourself from your own lecture notes (I know you can usually find some online but that’s cheating) so it counts as your ‘second first visit’ (the first being when you were actually in the lecture!).

The problem is that flashcards get a lot of hate so I’ve come up with a compromise: pretend flashcards. So the idea behind this is to write up your lecture in a non flashcardy way (if that’s your jam) BUT at the end of each section (or every few slides / paragraphs), write yourself three questions. Then, every time you read through your slides, cover up your notes and answer them – see not technically a flashcard but also a flashcard. This is particularly good for people who like their notes  pretty and visual (read: grammable) and would probably be me if I had the time.

3. Are you mixing it up?


As mentioned, most of my notes are flashcards BUT BUT BUT here’s the thing. After a while of revising flashcards everything smushes into the same thing. Just like reading lots of notes. One of the ways of combatting this is through doing little and often (instead cramming everything at the end of the year) which is really helped by organising yourself (see step 1).

The other thing you can do is doing more than one thing, kind of like the pretend flashcards where you do notes and questions all in one. But it can be anything. For example, I have some flashcards for microbiology, but I also have posters that I stick up on my noticeboard which are nice and colourful. I also draw pictures on my iPad whenever I see something that looks drawable and I have a notebook where I write up practicals in a more traditional note format – there aren’t as many of them as there are lectures and I like to write out protocols. Sue me.

The point is to get your brain to look at the information in different ways and give yourself memorable things to latch onto if your brain goes blank in an exam (I still remember acute phase proteins because I drew a little picture of a cute moon (get it? phases) in the corner of my lecture notes in first year).



So there you have it, my top three tips. This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list but it’s meant to be simple and remotely doable. Also it’s getting kind of late as I’m writing this and I want to go to bed so there’s also that. Let me know if you want to know some more about this or anything in general on instagram, facebook, or twitter!