Study Tips: How to Effectively Colour-Code Your Notes
Colour-coding is an essential studying technique for university and college students. For example, it’s a good idea to pick a different colour binder for each course. When it comes to notes, here are some tips I have personally found useful:
Write out your notes in black ink then colour-code using high-lighters
I used to write out study notes using black and coloured pens. However aesthetically pleasing the final result was, it just became too time-consuming. Switching between the different colours took up precious time: not just the physical action of capping and uncapping, but the mental effort to remember which colour corresponded to which sub-topic. When you regularly have lectures that are over 100 PowerPoint slides long, this is not the most effective use of your time.
A much more efficient technique is to write out study notes in black ink, and then use highlighters to colour-code. The added advantage is that you go through your notes twice: the first time writing it out, the second time high-lighting it.
Stick to a few colours
My old technique of using coloured pens was also troublesome because I was using 10 colours. Huge mistake! When I should have been stuffing my brain with information on antibiotics, I was wasting brain space—futilely—trying to memorize my intricate colour-coding system.
Instead, you are better off with a few colours. Maximum four, but feel free to use more or less depending on your personal preferences and the needs of your courses. My current system involves two colours: pink (for information that the professor has indicated will be tested) and blue (for information that I need help with or need to spend more time on). I also highlight sparingly. The purpose of using colour is to guide your eye to what is most important. If your notes are full of colour, this is more distracting than helpful.
Be consistent across all your courses
When I was studying different microbial pathogens, I was tempted to assign different colours to habitat, mode of transmission, clinical significance, laboratory diagnosis, and treatment. That is five colours already—but these colours would only be applicable to my microbiology course, not my chemistry or statistics courses. This would mean at least two different colour-coding systems!
Your colour-coding system should be simple. Keep it simple so that it can be applied to all of your courses, regardless of the subject. Your life is complicated enough with coursework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs—don’t further complicate things with complex colour-coding systems.
Colour-coding can be an excellent technique to create effective notes. Whether you hand-write or print your study notes, strategic additions of colour to black text can help you increase your studying efficiency!
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