It's Time To Throw ALL Your IB Physics Class Notes In The Trash
This may come as a bit of a surprise.... but I think you should throw all your physics notes in the trash. Now. BEFORE YOUR EXAMS!
I distinctly remember one night a few months before my final physics exam at high school. Incidentally that final exam fell on my birthday…. 21st May. That exam has literally has tainted every birthday since then.
Why my birthday has been ruined since I was 17
Every year on my birthday I get PTSD and start reciting formulae. All. Because. Of. That. Exam....
I was sitting at my desk and I was about to start my revision. I'd made up a revision timetable in different coloured pens and started the process of writing my revision notes. I took out my class notes and they were a mess.
Pages and pages of calculations to problems I'd attempted to solve in class. Random pages of random notes that I really couldn't assign to any particular topic. Some of my physics notes were hidden in my french folder.
No idea why - or should i say....
It was a mess but I didn't panic.
I got out my textbook, opened it up at Topic 1 and started highlighting the textbook - like I'd been told to do in school. Trouble was that I'd practically highlighted every sentence on the page! I'd ruined my textbook (can't sell it on after I've randomly highlighted every sentence!) and it became clear this wasn't the best way to study.
THEN I started writing revision notes for the exam. So I got my different coloured pens and started crafting the most beautiful revision notes I'd ever seen. It took me two hours to cover about three pages in the textbook. The irony was I already knew the stuff I'd just written revision notes on. Why had I just spent two hours writing out stuff that I already knew?
What a WASTE OF TIME!!!!!!!
This was never going to work.
The 'know-it-all' who I disliked at school but changed the way I study FOREVER!
There was a person in my class who was a know-it-all. Always getting top marks and fancied themselves as the next Einstein. He boasted that he condensed the whole course down to 2 sides of A4 paper and I literally had no idea why or how you would do that;!?
Then I tried it and it changed my school study forever.
- It completely changed the way I took notes in class.
- It completely changed what notes I kept and what notes I binned
- It completely improved my organisation
- It completely changed my grades.
By condensing my class notes down to two sides of A4, I removed a whole lot of clutter and unnecessary information from my mind. I was able to focus EXACTLY on what I needed to know for class tests and exams.
More importantly I was able to omit all the stuff I did know and focus more on the stuff I didn't know.
I bet I can tell what you're thinking.
- Sally, if you think I should throw all my class notes in the bin - do I even need notes?? Can I just use a pre-written revision book?
- Sally, it's all very well saying to ‘condense’ everything down to two sides of A4, but how? Should I just write really small??
Let me elaborate.
WHY you should NOT use pre-written revision notes (or somebody else's)
First of all, I strongly believe that you should write your own notes and should not rely on pre-written revision books that you buy.
These books are written by expert physics teachers and they need to include every aspect of the course. They do it remarkably well and these books are of very high quality. HOWEVER, they cover every learning objective superficially, meaning that if there’s a concept you DON'T understand, it will be covered in the same depth as a concept you DO understand.
Your revision notes should be tailored to you.
They should include the concepts you DON’T understand at the time of writing them. They should include the formulae that you haven’t already memorised. They should include the definitions that you have to memorise - only then will they be useful to you.
HOW exactly to write these condensed notes (FREEBIE INCLUDED!)
Secondly, Now you need to know EXACTLY how to structure these notes to get everything in.
I have a free note template for you. It’s included in my IB Physics: Starter Study Pack and I highly recommend you download it. It’s free.
Once you have the free note template. You’ll need a copy of the learning objectives for the topic you are currently studying. You’ll find these in your textbook (or my company GradePod have them as part of the Ace Your IB Physics Exams online course).
You then work through each learning objective and decide if it falls into one of the following sections:
- Common Diagrams
- Common Graphs
- Experiment Summary
- Other Notes
If I read the learning objective, “Draw and analyse velocity-time graphs”, I’d head to the common graphs section and draw a velocity-time graph. Then I’d annotate that graph with all the information I’d want to remember (e.g. the area under the graph = displacement, the gradient = acceleration and so on). However, if I was an expert at velocity-time graphs then I wouldn’t even bother including it.
“Explain the difference between instantaneous and average values of velocity”. I’d head to the definitions section and note down the definition of both instantaneous and average velocity. I’d know to memorise them for the exam.
As you work through the learning objectives, you’ll find that you are organising the whole topic into small, easy to manage sections. Once you’ve finished that topic, you’ll have a list of definitions that you need to learn (remember they can increase your grade by around 9-11%). You’ll have a list formulae that might not appear in the data booklet - so you’d want to memorise these. If you see a graph in an exam question - you can head to the graph section of your notes and answer the question quickly and easily.
Can you see how this one sheet of double-sided A4 would be SO USEFUL when completing practice past papers later on in your revision for the final exams? Can you see that you really wouldn’t need to save any other notes?
You can literally through all your class notes in the bin and keep this one piece of paper.
What to do if you use an iPad or Tablet to take notes
If you complete your notes on an ipad or tablet. It’s even MORE useful! This is because you can delete stuff as you become more confident with it. Say you wrote your revision notes on Mechanics last month and you included velocity-time graphs because you were unsure of them at the time. You’ve done some work on it and the information is embedded in your head. You can go to the revision notes and delete that graph. Making way for other stuff that becomes a focus for you.
Watch Me Complete This Technique For The WHOLE of Topic 3: Thermal Physics
If you’d like to watch me complete this process for the whole topic of Thermal Physics (topic 3) then please do download my free IB Physics Starter Study Pack. It has a video tutorial in there where I complete the whole of thermal physics in under 15 minutes.
I’d really encourage you to start this process now. No matter what stage (or ability) you are in IB Physics. If you start writing these notes for each topic you have completed in class now - it will make you exam revision much less stressful. You could use this template for other subjects too. Perhaps they’d be most suited to science subjects for the exact template to work - but take the template and use it!
Am I the Maria Kondo of class notes? Throw them in the bin (or burn them!)
Maybe also use this time to clear out the rubbish notes lying around in your school bag, locker, under your bed. If you have random bits of paper with solutions to problems written on them as part of your class work - just through them in the bin. You’re never going to look at them again. Similarly, if you have lots of files saved on your tablet with problem solutions - delete them. It’s taking up too much of your computer and mind clutter.
There's a lady called Maria Kondo, who is famous for writing a book called, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: The Japanese Art". In this book, she asks you to take an object in your house and look at it. Look at it and think,
"Does this object spark joy?"
If yes - keep it.
If no - put it in the bin.
Do your class notes spark joy?
If yes - keep them
If no - put them in the bin.
Once you’ve followed this process, I promise you’ll feel like a superhero ready to tackle any class test or exam. It’s also a great feeling to throw out all your class notes! Maybe even burn them?
That’s some free therapy right there!
Have a Gradepod day
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