Have you noticed that many students started using squared notebooks in replacement of traditional lined notebooks?
While traditional lined notebooks are great for taking simple notes, squared notebooks provide way more benefits. They give us flexibility and make it much easier to format our notes. This also explains the prominence of using Moleskine Squared Notebook for bullet journals.
While many of us do use squared notebooks, have you wondered how to maximize the benefit of squared notebooks?
In fact, the flexibility of squared notebooks can help us achieve a lot of things. It can be useful for enhancing your learning effectiveness and strengthening your logical thinking skills.
In this article, you will learn about several ways of using your squared notebooks. You will learn how to make the most out of it and improve your organization and maximize your productivity!
This article describes the four note-taking systems introduced in the book 聪明人用方格笔记本. It introduces some ways in which you can use these styles in your learning process – both for class notes and notes for working on your problem and past paper questions.
If you would like to try using squared paper to take notes, do download our note-taking printables here!
What are the benefits of using squared notebooks?
Formatting and drawing are made so much easier on squared notebooks than in traditional lined notebooks.
The ease of drawing on squared notebooks
When you are brainstorming ideas, you may want to draw a mind map to assist your thinking process. When preparing for a presentation, you may want to draw different graphs to show your logic flow. For note-takers that are visual learners, drawing is an essential part of note-taking.
Yet, these may be restricted if you are using a traditional notebook. Squared notebooks are the exact cure for this problem.
Formatting on squared notebooks
Squared notebooks are also incredibly helpful when it comes to organizing your texts. This is beneficial for those who like to use the outline method to take notes.
What is the outline method? The outline method of note-taking is to organize your materials into different topics, sub-topics, main points, and organize them into different levels of information. This helps you to quickly understand the structure and relationship of the materials.
By using squared notebooks for your outlines, you can:
- Leave sufficient space between different main points (without messing up the formats)
- Make sure the same levels of headings/main points are aligned
- Control the line spacing of your lines
- Easily adjust the size of the words
4 Note-taking systems on squared notebooks
If you are hoping to improve the way you think, squared notebooks will be your favorite tool. The structure of your notes is the key determinant to how you think. This is because the structure is what that guides you to think in different directions. With a good structure, you will be inspired to think in a logical and organized way.
So what creates the good structure?
With squared notebooks, you can easily create tables and frames. Without being restricted by traditional lined paper, you can freely draw vertical and horizontal lines to structure your notes. This helps you frame your ideas and organize different information.
1. Content, Questions, Answers
To learn effectively in lectures, we need to actively listen and take notes during class. This can be done by using the structure of “content, questions, answers”.
By using this structure, we can first jot notes on the left page using the outline method. Then, we can take notes of lecturer’s questions and comments, or questions we can think of during class in the second column. Finally, we can find the answers and write on the right column along with the corresponding conclusions
This format encourages us to actively think through the class materials and to pay close attention to lecturers’ comments and questions. This structure also motivates us to figure out the answers to our questions and summarize the materials in our own words. You will have to take the time to review the class materials, come up with questions or think about the questions in class, and look for the respective answers. This exercise is exactly what we call “active learning” – which is how you can best absorb information.
Recommended process using the “Content, Question, Answer” note-taking system:
- Before class (“Title“): write down the title and the outline of the class to have a brief overview of what will be covered
- During class (“Content“): take notes using the outline note-taking method in the content area
- After class (“Questions and Answers“): Review the materials and write down any questions you have. Next, refer to your readings and class notes to find out the answers and summarize everything you have learned
Want to learn more about how you can better prepare for, actively listen, and review after class? The lesson “Effectively Learning in Class” in our free training Student Success Bootcamp will tell you all how you can do well in these stages to maximize your learning effectiveness in class! It also comes with free downloadable notes – so make sure to take the course now!
2. Cornell Note-taking Method
Cornell note-taking method is said to be one of the most helpful note-taking systems for students. I have also repeatedly covered this note-taking method in the following articles:
- How to Take Notes Effectively in Class (feat. OneNote)
- 4 Steps to Reading Your Textbook Effectively and Efficiently
- How I Use OneNote for Life and School Organization
- How I Take Notes For Lectures and Tutorials
- Why and How Should You Prepare for Lectures?
In our Student Strategy Planner and Student Success Bootcamp, we emphasized a lot about the benefits of Cornell note-taking method and incorporated in our planners and courses to help you better take notes during class and when reading.
But why is Cornell note-taking method so special?
Similar to the note-taking style above, Cornell method is best at encouraging active learning. When combined with the SQ3R reading method, it provides you with both a systematic way of organizing your notes as well as an effective learning system.
What is the note-taking process like when using this method?
- During the lecture, you should take notes of the main points covered in the lecture in the “content” column”.
- Soon after the lecture, you should then formulate questions and write them on the “cue” column based on the notes in the content area to clarify meanings, establish relationships, and strengthen your memory. You can also write keywords to summarize the main points in the “content” column.
- Then, probably a day or a week after the lecture, you can review the materials by covering the “content” column and answering the questions in the “cue” column.
- Finally, you should review the materials by thinking about your viewpoints, application, and understanding of the knowledge and summarize them in the “conclusion” area.
The SQ3R method is detailedly covered in “Increase Your Reading Efficiency” of the Student Success Bootcamp!
Cornell note-taking printables: Click here to download the file
3. Point Sheet
The following two systems I am going to cover are probably more relevant to businessmen than to students, but you can change it to be a system that fits your areas of studies. These two systems are also perfect if you are trying to work on a project and solve the problems you encountered during it.
In the “Point Sheet” system, you will use the left side to write down the main ideas regarding the problem you faced, and the corresponding actions on the right column. While this note-taking system may be very helpful for consulting firms and business, it may not seem very useful for students.
One way of changing it is to look at this system as a way of working on your question bank and past paper questions.
- You can start by writing your question in the “title” area.
- Then, jot down the relevant information, your arguments, and explanation on the “point” column.
- Next, you can draw evidence and examples on the “action” column to show how you can apply the information and support your arguments.
Without the rigidity of traditional lined papers, you can easily draw arrows between the two columns to establish relationships between your arguments and the examples/cases you use.
4. McKinsey system
Similar to the third system, the note-taking system by Mckinsey also utilizes a similar approach to work on different problems.
Similar to the approach I described, you can also use this format for working on your problem questions. You can try to also analyze the question in the title “fact/question” area by breaking down the question and analyzing different components or approaches to the question. To learn how to analyze an essay question, How to Answer Essay Questions in Exams provides a step-by-step guide to help you break down an essay question using a specific color-coding system!
Cornell note-taking printables: Click here to download the file
Want to be an effective note-taker?
We have a lot of tips and skills that can help you be an effective note-taker, both at school and at work! If you haven’t already, you should join our Student Success Bootcamp! We have packed a lot of tips on motivation, habit formation, actively learning in class, reading skills, and most importantly taking notes!
If you would like to enhance your productivity and study smarter by taking better notes, make sure to get The Student Strategy Planner on Students Toolbox since it gives you a lot of useful printables incorporated with study skills and different note-taking structures!
If you like this article, why not let your friends know about it? You can share the images below on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!