Search form

Awesome Summary Notes Make Studying a Breeze

Share Professional Development

The Awesome Summary Notes system provides students with an easy and efficient method for organizing information and studying for tests. Included: Directions for creating summary notes and tips for using them for studying and review.

Many students spend hours scrambling to study for a test using class notes, textbooks, handouts, and review sheets, only to feel let down when their grades don't reflect the hours of studying they put in beforehand. If your students are studying for exams using multiple sources of information in a disorganized and scatterbrained fashion, they are wasting valuable time!


The key to studying, especially in math and science courses, is proper preparation. To ensure success, students must use a systematic method to prepare.

About the Author

Anita Delmar, B.Sc. B.Ed., is the author of Awesome Grades in Math and Science, a program that, step-by-step, guides students in grades 7-12 to success in their math and science classes. The Awesome Grades program is used by thousands of students, parents, teachers and schools throughout North America and abroad. For more information, visit the Awesome Grades Web site.

Many students find that, no matter how many times they look over the information they need to know for a test, they still are unable to retain it. I have found that to learn something well enough to succeed on a test or exam, students must actually write down the information in a concise and organized manner.

I want to share with you, therefore, a system that can help students immediately organize information, and allow them to learn it in an efficient and highly effective manner. I've been teaching this method for years -- to students of varying capabilities and academic levels; without fail, the method has produced dramatic improvement in students' overall achievement. It also has been a particularly useful tool for my special education students, many of whom demonstrate considerable organizational difficulties.

Best of all, this method, which I call the "Awesome Summary Notes" (ASN) system, is extremely easy to use. With the brief description and example provided below, you can get started right away helping your students develop more organized and efficient study habits!


Provide students with the following directions for making Awesome Summary Notes:

  1. Draw a vertical line lengthwise down the center of an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper.
  2. Write a question in the left hand column of the page using as few key words as possible (but being careful not to leave out anything important).
  3. Write the answers in the right hand column of the page (directly across from each question) using as few key words as possible.
Follow the same procedure for all the subject matter that must be learned.

For example, if your students needed to learn the functions of the parts of a cell for a biology test, they would

  • write the heading "Functions of cell parts" at the top of the page.
  • list the name of each cell part -- nucleus, vacuole, cytoplasm, and so on -- in the left-hand column, beneath the heading.
  • summarize the function of each cell part in the right-hand column, across from the name of the part. It's as simple as that!

The key to making this system work is to have your students take everything they need to learn from their textbooks, handouts, class notes, review sheets, and so on, and compile it into a single, easy-to-study resource.


The two most important characteristics your students must keep in mind when making their Awesome Summary Notes are thoroughness and accuracy.

Being thorough means students must make sure they go through all the material they need to learn and make proper summary notes of it. It also means not writing any information in their notes that they don't really understand. Explain to students that they should get help from you, another teacher, a tutor, a parent, or a friend to be sure they understand each concept before including it in their summary notes.

Being accurate means student must make sure every piece of information in their summary notes is correct. If students make errors in the answer column of their notes, they'll learn incorrect information -- and they'll learn it extremely well!

The first couple of times my students make Awesome Summary Notes on their own, I look them over to make sure they are done correctly. Making Awesome Summary Notes, like any new skill, usually takes a bit of practice to do it right.


The ASN system is excellent for organizing and memorizing large amounts of information, memorizing mathematical formulas, learning biology diagrams, or for writing out the steps for solving math problems.

The ASN method will reduce students' stress before an exam by giving them an easy, step-by-step, method of effective preparation. It will eliminate confusion and anxiety over what to do next or how to study. It will make students feel as though they are actually accomplishing what they need to accomplish.

But here's the best part: The completed summary notes also can serve as self-tests. How? Simply have your students take a blank sheet of 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper, fold it in half lengthwise, and put it on top of the right hand column of their summary notes page -- so only the questions on the left side are visible. Now, students ask themselves a question from the left hand side of their notes and write the answer on the blank sheet of paper on the right hand side. They can check their answers immediately by sliding the folded piece of paper down just enough to expose the answer to the question they are working on.

They got an answer wrong? No problem! All they need to do is simply write the correct answer a few times to create a visual picture of it in their minds, so they will be able to recall that picture quickly and easily when they see a similar question on a test. They also should mark with an asterisk each question they missed, so they'll remember to test themselves on it again later. In the meantime, they move on to the next question.

By following this procedure until they've learned everything in their summary notes, your students will be in awesome shape for their next quiz or exam!