Making Notes at Medical School

How we take notes is different for everyone, I have tried many approaches myself and it took me a while to realise what the best method was for me. It is important to appreciate that everyone takes notes differently, so here are a few methods of note-taking that my friends and I have tried.

What do I currently?

Before I start, it is important to note that I am very much paperless, this is for multiple reasons such as being a slow writer and bad speller, I also found that with the sheer amount of content I would get through a fair amount of paper and it would be easier to keep all my notes on my OneDrive so I won’t lose them.

I have a split-screen method when it comes to note taking in lectures. If the lecture is in person, I will have the PowerPoint slides on one half of my laptop and Microsoft OneNote on the other side of my screen. If the lectures are live online ones or pre-recorded I will have a split-screen with the lecture and Microsoft OneNote. I personally like OneNote because of the ability to right notes vertically and horizontally, I find it easier to organise the information I need. I also like that I am able to keep all my lecture notes in one place and find it easier to sort through my notes.

On OneNote I have a notebook for each semester, which is then further split into weeks, and the lectures within that week. 

This is what my one note typically looks like, but this will vary from student to student

As seen in the image, I create a table with all the lesson objectives in and I write notes from the lectures in the objective they meet.

I try to make my notes look appealing so it doesn’t feel too much like a chore looking back at them. I do this by highlighting things such as keywords in yellow, and anything I feel is important in green. This makes the information easier to digest for me as it does not look like a big block of writing. I also make sure I add images where I can to help visualise concepts that are harder to put into words.

There are times when I still do not understand the content though, and so my favourite YouTube channel is Ninja Nerd where he explains all the concepts we look at, and so I use his videos to help break concepts down fully so that I understand them when I’m relearning things or trying to revise.

Flashcards (paper, Anki or quizlet)

Instead of making lots and lots of notes during the lectures and then condensing them into flashcards in your spare time, many of my friends make flashcards in the lectures as we are being taught. This can be very time effective as you’re not devoting so much time to making notes/ revision resources and can focus on learning the content more if flashcards are the best method for you. I have tried this and also have friends who have done this.

A screenshot of an anki flashcard

Using the PowerPoint only

Lectures can be very fast-paced, it can be quite hard to keep up. To help with this, there is the option of downloading the PowerPoint slides and writing the key points made in the notes section under each slide in the lecture. What’s fortunate is that most of the time, the lecturers have a lot of the things they have said in these note sections too. Some people opt to print out the PowerPoints and physically write on them, it is up to you. A lot of people digest information better when it is handwritten.

Insert slides onto a note taking app

I mainly used this method during first year, I would insert the slides onto OneNote and make notes under each slide on there. how you lay your notes out is your choice. Whilst I used OneNote, this can be done with other note taking apps available from your App stores if you are on a laptop/ tablet.