On taking notes.


Thanks to technology, we are continually treated to a feast for the eyes–aesthetically pleasing notes shown in this studyblr and this one. Looking at them makes me want to kick myself sometimes, because I don’t have the time to do that.

It’s not too late, though. I can. I’ve made numerous investments where school supplies are concerned–notebooks, pens–I could go on and on. And man, I can’t wait until June to make use of said investments. And be organised while I’m at it.

I know I will get a lot of hate for this, but a pretty set of notes will amount to nothing if you can’t remember what you’ve written, if you are not able to organise your thoughts. I’m not saying you should make your notes plain, but make them functional! Because that’s what your notes are for, and it’s not something you can hang on the wall and forget. 

Here in the Philippines, law students have different sources of information they could use for their notes. Our textboooks (those hardbound books that cost the earth), the codals, the reviewers, the memory aids from different law schools (hi, UST, Ateneo, and San Beda)–and even notes compiled by you and your classmates. The last part may sound bizarre, but it is possible (I’ve seen those kind of notes here. When the service was still free. Ah, the good old days).

Before I go further in this post, let me warn you that different students have different approaches in studying, and taking notes, so what might work for me may not furnish the same effect for others, and vice versa. It’s still worth a try, though. 🙂 Also, I have to be honest–it’s the first time for me to share something like this post to everyone–so here’s hoping it would help–despite the disclaimer!

As mentioned earlier, the Philippine law student usually relies on the good ol’ text book, the codal, and the handy Memory Aid from another law school (no kidding). And it’s pretty rare for a professor to give lectures. We have RECITATIONS EVERY MEETING–again, no kidding. So, the student will have to make his or her own notes.

These are notes from my Special Penal Laws class–the subject dealing with special laws in Criminal Law. The range of topics proved very interesting–ranging from arson, estafa, domestic violence, graft and corruption (oh hell yeah, it’s included), and yes, even cattle rustling.


 1. Using tables can be a big help, especially when you’re trying to distinguish one concept from another–something that is typical in an essay question. Apologies for the blurry photo!


2. Making a definition of terms at the start of the topic can also be very handy, especially in exams that have “identification” items. This type of exam item is very, very rare in law school, but we study it all the same. Because, well, you never know when exactly that question will turn up. And it will turn up. Probably in your midterm exam. Or on your final exam. And most likely in the Bar exam.


3.  See those little numbers in between some sentences in the picture? I’ve made some sort of system where I can keep track of some information that can be easily become answers to an enumeration type question. That way, my thoughts will be organised and I won’t  be just memorising aimlessly.


4. Diagrams are helpful when you want a clearer idea of a lesson you are trying to understand–it may probably be an overwhelming topic, and it would help if you chop it down to a chronological chunk of information.



5. See those post-its and random “text boxes”? They’re additional information–stuff that might–or might not be asked in the exam, or recitation. Just keep it handy. You’ll never know when you’ll need it.

A few nights ago, my friend Krystel and I did a bit of catching up. At one point, she and I discussed learning strategies, and making notes. She suggested that you can try drawing something that might “ring a bell” in your mind–for example, if you’re studying Torts, and reading the case Picart v. Smith, which is about an accident involving a car and a pony; you can draw a pony somewhere in your notes, and the next time you hear the case being mentioned, you are immediately reminded of the horse you drew, and then you’ll remember everything you’ve studied about it. Pretty cool, huh? 🙂

Both Krystel and I at some point gave the mind map a try. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it, but if not, don’t worry. It’s like the diagram, except that it branches out to more and more information, like a tree.

If you’re not studying law, that’s okay! 🙂 Trying these different approaches to making notes is till worth a try. I believe that any student for that matter can make their own system of studying their lessons and make it work for them.

Has any one of you tried a similar method to those mentioned above? Did it work for you? If yes, how, and if not, why? 🙂 I’ll be very glad to know–please don’t be shy, and leave a comment! 🙂

PS. Sorry for the blurry photographs, but if you want to see clearer pictures, please let me know in the comment along with your email address so I can scan the notes and send them to you! 🙂


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