If you are willing to study, then of course, taking careful notes in class is essential, as you are surely already doing. But ask yourself; what exactly are you taking notes of?
- What is important is not what the teacher writes on the board for you but what he/she doesn’t write.
What is on the board can most likely be found on the internet, in books, or is obvious if you know the topic. To get good marks in exams, you need to understand the details of each argument and know what sort of explanations your teachers want to hear.
Write down as much as you can, wherever you can. It doesn’t need to be neat.
- Don’t write neatly.
Writing neatly takes time and stops you from listening. Don’t use colours and different pens etc. Write as fast as you can, so that you can actively participate again straight away. It’s fine if you’re the only person in the world who can read what you scribbled down. However…
- Rewrite everything at home.
What you scribbled down in class needs to be rewritten carefully. My rule was to do this within a week of that lesson. Like this, you are forced to revise the content a few days after you learnt it, reducing the amount of revision you need to do directly before the exam.
- Reorganise what the teacher wrote.
The teachers draw the likes of diagrams, which are often but not always thought through, to make it easier for students to remember. When rewriting your notes, try and change the structure of the content.
Unnecessary diagrams can be turned into simple bullet points. Long dictations and definitions into something else.
Think about what fits you best.
All this rewriting, reorganising may seem like a lot of work. It is, to be honest. But compared to what you would need to do to learn it all right before the exam, it is still a very efficient and systematic method. I started doing this one year before my A-levels and my grades improved visibly.