What to include in review notes for exams

Not sure where to start when you’re studying for exams?

Review notes are the answer. They help you synthesize what you’ve learned and organize the course information for studying.

Why should you make review notes? 

Maybe you’re wondering, “aren’t my lecture and reading notes enough?” Taking time to create review notes could improve your exam performance and here’s how:


You’ll combine, summarize and organize information from all your notes — textbook readings, lectures, labs, etc. It’s easier to study when all the information is in one place.


You’ll build connections between major concepts and key words in your review notes. This helps you develop a stronger understanding of the information.


Breaking up a large volume of information into smaller, manageable chunks makes it easier to study and less overwhelming.


Once you have your full overview of review notes, you can allocate how much time to spend studying each topic.

Ready to get started?

Follow these steps to create review notes.  

Step 1: Collect all relevant material

This may include:

  • Course outline and syllabus 

  • Textbooks 

  • Assigned readings 

  • Lectures and reading notes 

  • Handouts 

  • Assignments 

  • Other supplementary materials

Step 2: Choose a note-taking method

Here are some of the most common methods (you could also combine them!): 

Step 3: Create an outline

Identify major topics that will be covered on the exam by reading through your course outline/syllabus and previous notes. Your outline should include: 

  • Focus of a topic 

  • Concepts/terms 

  • Definitions 

  • Formulas 

Step 4: Incorporate supporting details

Use headings, subheadings and bullet points to organize supporting details from learning materials. You could consider adding: 

  •  Connections between concepts  

  •  Examples  

  •  Problems   

  •  Questions and answers   

  •  Links to additional resources 

Step 5: Use visual cues

Visual cues can help represent sequence and relationships such as comparison, contraction, cause and effect, and hierarchies. These are some examples: 

  • Charts 

  • Graphs 

  • Timelines 

  • Sequential diagrams 

  • Cyclical diagrams 

  • Pyramid and branch

By creating review notes then quizzing yourself with them, you’ll recall knowledge, reinforce your understanding and retain information better for your next exam. Good luck!