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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.

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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