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Updated: Oct 10, 2018

So this is a very much requested blog post and I’ve been very excited to share my technique of note-taking. It’s nothing special but has proven effective for me in time past and has helped me to learn and consolidate my knowledge. It’s a 4 stage process for me, so here is the breakdown.

1. Note-taking before the lecture

  • If the lecture slides are released earlier, making notes of the lecture content is great for gaining exposure to the topic before the lecture. This can also guide your pre-reading, so you may decide to watch a YouTube video or read a specific chapter in a textbook to introduce you to the topic. I wouldn’t say this is compulsory but it is very useful in the long run.

2. Note-taking during the lecture

  • For the majority of the time, you will have access to the slides if not before the lecture, then after the lecture.

  • Whilst making your notes in the lecture focus on what the lecturer is saying, they often mention things that aren’t in the slides so pay attention.

  • I try and write down as much as possible, whether relevant or not as I don’t want to risk missing out important information that can make my process of understanding a lot quicker.

  • Always make notes of headings and they are good in the future for structural organisation

3. Note-taking after the lecture

  • Go back to the slides and fill in my notes (where I have missed any information out)

  • I also listen to the recording if needs be, to again add to my notes things I may have misheard during the lecture

  • I then do some further reading using relevant textbooks but I also make sure I don’t go into too much detail

  • An alternative to hitting the textbooks is watch YouTube videos; these are great for animations and are very concise

  • Any additional information I gain I incorporate into my notes

4. Note-taking for revision purposes

  • I condense my lecture notes by making them fit on one side of an A4 sheet of paper on my laptop (1 and a 1/2 sides at most) to consolidate my knowledge)

  • Then I make my mind-maps using these condensed lecture notes in my sketchpad

  • An alternative to making mind maps is making flash cards


As my course is Case Based, this makes organising my mind maps a lot easier. Each case so far has covered a particular sector e.g. Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Neurological and Women’s Health. I have also covered the basic sciences so some of them have their own mind maps e.g. Pain & Nociception, Immunity, Nutrition etc.

Why do I make mind-maps

  • I’m a visual learner

  • I’m very creative

  • Everything is clearly organised

  • Easy to retrieve information

  • I can look for everything in one place

  • It’s my own personalised revision guide

  • Forms the basis of my knowledge

  • Having them in a sketchbook means it’s portable

  • Organised chronologically

A study by Farrand, Hussain and Hennessey (2002) found that Mind Mapping improved the long-term memory of factual information in medical students by 10%. They reported that “Mind Maps provide an effective study technique when applied to written material” and are likely to “encourage a deeper level of processing” for better memory formation.

How my Mind Maps are structures

  • The Case or topic in the centre

  • Each separate colour scheme indicate the notes from a particular lecture and subtopics in that lecture (Case Mind Maps)

  • Each separate colour scheme indicates subtopics of that particular topic e.g. Adaptive Immunity Topic, Cell-mediated Immunity sub-topic, Humoral Immunity sub-topic etc. (Topic Mind Maps)

  • I add necessary diagrams where needed

  • I use a variety of formats: tables, notes, diagrams

  • Miscellaneous Pages – random notes related to that case/ topic and can always be added to

DISCLAIMER: What works for me may not necessarily work for you. For some people this may be very long winded but it’s what I use to learn and most importantly consolidate my knowledge. It is very difficult to keep up with and it is also very time consuming and requires dedication. I don’t follow these exact steps all the time, so it is okay to have down days. Please do not assume this is the standard for all medical students because I am most definitely sure that some people make their notes differently. So feel free to adapt this method to what suits you.

The Sketchpad I use

Farrand, P., Hussain, F. and Hennessy E. (2002), The efficacy of the ‘mind map’ study technique. Medical Education, Vol. 36 (5), pp 426-431


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