Boost your IBDP Grades with Better Note-taking.

Written By Rashi S.

First things first

Whilst some may claim that they can remember all material that was taught in class without taking notes or actively engaging with the content, this is not possible for most people. Note-taking is a skill that you do not only need for the DP but for university and eventually your career as well. Thus, the sooner you start practicing good note-taking skills, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your near-future life. Moreover, taking notes has several benefits. Primarily, it keeps you engaged, enabling you to filter and write down information that you think is vital and subject to examination instead of concentrating on (often unneeded) details. To make it clearer, note-taking aids you in capturing the big ideas instead of minor details or irrelevant information, helping you better understand what content to prioritize when studying for exams. Therefore, my first recommendation would be to start taking notes, if you don’t already!

Digital vs. Handwritten Notes

The classic debate of whether one should take digital or handwritten notes. I believe that personal preference prevails in this case, hence, chose the method that you are most comfortable with. Nevertheless, when I was in the DP, for subjects such as math, I would take handwritten notes as it is easier to write the symbols (e.g. the division sign and “approximately equal to sign”). However, for writing-based subjects, such as history and english language & literature, I would take digital notes. Most studies show that with handwritten notes one is better able to process information and commit it to memory. Although this is true, by taking digital notes, from my experience, it is easier to follow the pace of the class. Furthermore, for writing some IAs for particular subjects and assignments in university, you must (eventually) familiarize yourself with writing equations and calculations digitally. Therefore, it is beneficial for your to begin experimenting with typing mathematical equations online.

Apps for Note-Taking

Some apps I would recommend for note-taking based on my experience and gaining information from my colleagues are the following:

  • Google Docs: easy format, one can make suggestions on the document, and enables collective note-taking
  • Google Keep: good format, can be linked to google docs, and makes staying organized easier
  • Evernote: a multi-purpose note-taking app with a variety of templates
  • CollaNote (for iPads): edit textbook PDFs, draw mind maps, scan documents and texts in the app

Various Note-taking Methods

A range of note-taking techniques exist; I discuss the most commonly used ones in this section.

First, the outline method is most commonly used for taking notes and it is the one that I use as well:


Next, I do not know anyone that takes notes using this method, and personally do not find the cornell method useful. Nevertheless, I would like to share it because it can be helpful in studying:

Finally, whilst I do not use this method for note-taking generally, I find it considerably useful for reviewing by hand during the exam period. It enables one to critically think about what information is truly important, revise efficiently, and express knowledge graphically.

Currently, in university, my method for studying for my exams is that I take digital notes using the outline method for all my courses. Subsequently, I periodically re-write them using the mapping method to refresh my knowledge. This allows me to absorb the necessary content in small doses compared to cramming all of it together before exams.


I hope this blog post provided some insight into why note-taking is crucial, despite whether you take them digitally or by hand. Additionally, I hope that the strategies discussed here for jotting notes will be useful to you not only for the DP but in other areas of your life as well. Wishing you all the best!

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