arts & culture

A Student’s Guide to Note-taking

A typical trip to the Blessings photocopy booth goes something like this: “Kuya, may Sandy Crab SpecPro po ba?” or “Kuya, pagawa pong dalawang copies ng Rem ni Atty. Ingles. Thank you.”

It is virtually impossible, if not unthinkable, for any Ateneo Law student to not have used or, at the very least, heard about student-made reviewers that were tailor-made for certain professors. Incorporated therein are notes from professors’ lectures, examples, cross-references to other law books, prescribed readings and relevant jurisprudence—all presented in a direct and concise manner for easy reference and memorization. These reviewers, though not to be taken as replacement for actual textbooks, have become extremely helpful to students who are studying for their examinations and recitations.

As a way to acknowledge the people whose reviewers have gone viral and helped countless students survive the rigors of law school, The Palladium asked them for tips from note-taking to just about anything in between. Get to know these awesome individuals and learn a thing or two from the people who, like you, relied on student-made reviewers when they were still in law school. Who knows? Maybe the next time you pass by Blessings, you’ll hear students asking for a copy of the [insert your name here] reviewer.

ATTY. MICKEY INGLES, Ateneo Law Batch 2012 (made reviewers for Taxation, Criminal Law, Remedial Law, Credit Transactions, etc.)

1. Any tips on note- taking?
Come to class prepared. ALWAYS. Note taking becomes easy when you understand the subject matter before you even step into class.

2. What made you decide to make a reviewer?
I always found it difficult reviewing for exams using textbooks because there are a lot of discussions, which weren’t going to be in the exams anyway. So, even back in 1st year, I made handwritten reviewers for Persons, Criminal Law II, and Obligations & Contracts. Reviewers help studying become “streamlined” so you really get to focus on the important parts. Another reason why I made reviewers was because I have this thing against having so many papers in front of me when I’m studying. It’s annoying to not know where a certain lesson or where an important doctrine is amidst all the materials. So, I made reviewers to consolidate things in just one material. Hence, the term “consolidate to dominate.” Hahaha! Love it!

3. You made a lot of reviewers for different subjects, which one is your favorite?
Tax!!! I really felt that my tax reviewer helped me understand such a technical subject. And I am happy that it helped a lot of people. :)

4. How were you able to manage your time both studying and making reviewers?
I have no idea. Looking back at things, I still have no idea how I did it. I guess it was just proper time management—planning ahead, etc. I had this goal that I’ll make a reviewer a week or so before midterms or finals in order to pass it around and so when it was time to study for exams, I already had my own material to use.

5. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?
The reviewers I made were actually mere improvements from existing reviewers (like Glenn Tuazon’s brilliant notes in Criminal Law Review and Remedial Law Review). So I would have other reviewers and I would jot down notes on them (or if there were no existing reviewers available, on textbooks [like my Securities Transactions and Property reviewers] during class. And then I’d scan through case doctrines and add them to the relevant codal provisions.

6. If you were a superhero, who would you be? Why?
No clue. Haha! Sorry, [I] can’t think of anything clever to answer.

7. What’s on your music playlist?
Right now? [A] hodgepodge of songs from artists like Up Dharma Down, Maroon 5, Paramore, One Republic, Anberlin, and songs from musicals like Wicked, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon.

8. What is your remedy for a bad day?
Working out and sports! Sweat all the bad vibes out.

ALEXANDRA CASTRO, Ateneo Law Batch 2013 (made reviewers for Remedial Law, Commercial Law, Administrative Law, Land Titles, etc.)

1. Any tips on note- taking?
Nothing really, just that you should really try to do it. Some professors don’t go by books, and base their test questions on seemingly random things they mention to the class offhand. Plus, it helps keep you busy, which is kind of essential for snooze-fest moments in class.

2. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?
I personally used my laptop to take down notes most of the time. I’d input the notes into the reviewer I was making during class, and just edit after. I didn’t do recording because I’d have to listen to it again. I just used Word for Mac, and to have accurate doctrines and case citations I used eSCRA.

3. Which subjects/ professors did you find conducive for note- taking?
I think all subjects/professors have little nuggets of knowledge they randomly mention in class, so I don’t think there are just specific subjects/professors it works for. Even if there was a nice book or reviewer that I could rely on for a subject, I’d write down my own annotations on them during class, just so I’d remember it better when I was reviewing the material later on.

4. You made a lot of reviewers for different subjects, which one is your favorite?
I would have to say my Remedial Law compilation. It was the only subject I covered from Rule 1 to Rule 134, including all the Special Rules that were covered for our bar. I integrated my notes from reviewers I made the first time I took subjects like Criminal Procedure or Civil Procedure during Remedial Law Review in senior year, then made a quick sheet for the last weekend of my bar as well.

5. Where did you find the time to make all those reviewers?
It’s how I studied. Instead of reading a book over and over again, which would make me bored. I realized I could get some things from books on a particular subject, some from reviewers made in the past, read everything once, and kind of make a comprehensive reviewer that I could study during exams. I didn’t have the time nor the patience to go through an entire book or several reviewers when studying for tests, so I just made one I could rely on instead. It was really useful because I was able to use the material I made during law school for bar review.

6. If you were a superhero, who would you be? Why?
Wonder Woman, I guess. ‘Coz sometimes when I was juggling being a single mom, a law student, and the head of an organization (Editor’s Note: Xandra was The Palladium’s Editor-in-Chief during S.Y. 2012-2013)

7. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
Christmas. Everyone gets presents, extra calories, and an extra serving of time with their family.

8. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.

NIKKI BELLOSILLO, Ateneo Law Batch 2013 (made a reviewer for Special Proceedings)

1. Any tips on note- taking?
Writing everything that your professor is saying is hard especially when you’re trying to recall the facts of the next case. Then again, if you come to class prepared, note taking will be easier. Before going to class, you should have read the codal provisions, books, and the cases assigned. That way, you could easily note down the things that your professors are saying that are not found in the codal, cases and books.

2. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?
I do not have a very light laptop that I can bring to school. Neither do I have an iPad. I also do not have the time to listen and transcribe a recording. So the only way that I could take down notes is by using a pen and paper. Since I do not write very fast, I have to make my own notes before class. I usually write my notes on the margins of my case list, reviewers, books, or codals so that I could decipher what I’ve written when I’m reviewing for that class. I do not write on a pad paper because I tend to lose them at the end of the day. If I manage to keep them, I sometimes have a hard time recalling what my notes were referring to.

3. Which subjects/ professors did you find conducive for note-taking?
Believe it or not, the professors that conduct recitations every meeting [handle the subjects that are] most conducive for note-taking. This is because you are forced to go to class prepared. You already know what the professor is saying because you’ve read everything that he assigned. That way, you only have to note down those that he or she said that are not in the books, cases, codals that you’ve read before class.

4. What made you decide to make a reviewer?
I made reviewers for various reasons. First, there is no available reviewer for that subject. Second, I do not want to study a lot of materials (i.e. books, cases, codal) during midterms and finals. Third, it helps me understand the subject because I have to summarize everything in just a few pages.

5. What do you do to de-stress?
I sleep to de-stress. Excluding my sleeping time, it would depend on how much “free time” that I have. If my only “free time” was during my drive going to and from school, I listen to upbeat songs. If have at least two hours, I watch movies (that are not thought-provoking). If I have a lot of “free time”, I read non-law books. These may sound tame/nerdy but please understand that I also did not have a smart phone during my four- year stay in law school. Hence, I could not check my social accounts whenever I need to de-stress. I also cannot play games on any gadget because I do not own one. Neither do I have any vice. So, I just sleep to de-stress. (^_^)

6. Where is your ultimate travel destination?
Any scenic and/or historical interest area will do ^_^

PIERRE MARTIN REYES, Ateneo Law Batch 2013 (made reviewers for Taxation Law)

1. Any tips on note-taking?
Honestly, I was not the type of student who takes down notes. I preferred listening to the lectures and recitations. As they say, 80% of what we learn is acquired through listening. Instead of taking down notes, I suggest that, for the most part of the class, just listen effectively. If you insist on taking notes, my tip is to limit it only to the important points.

2. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?

I only took note of the important points and I usually wrote them down in a yellow pad or in the syllabus itself. I didn’t use a laptop in class and I used my iPad sparingly. I’m traditional in that sense. For tax law, I made my reviewers prior to class. If there’s something missing, I would make some marginal notes in my printed draft to remind me what to add or revise in the final version of my reviewer. Occasionally, I would ask my seatmate (who eventually became my girlfriend) for her notes.

3. Your reviewers are very popular among law students, how does it feel like?
It is a great pleasure for me to see that my humble work is of great help to law students. I am also happy because I am able to promote my anti-crab mentality advocacy through my reviewers. My reviewers [were always] meant to be shared and I want[ed] to encourage others to share their reviewers. Ang Atenista hindi kailangan manlamang para maka-angat sa iba.

4. Why did you decide to make your reviewers in Q&A format? Is it more advantageous?
I am a firm believer in the KISS principle. I believe a reviewer should ‘”Keep It Simple and Straightforward.” The advantage of the Q&A format is its simplicity. With the Q&A format, you’re able to get brief but complete answers just as how answers to exam and recitation questions should be. To the author of the reviewer, it trains him or her to present the subject matter in a simple and effective way. To the reader, it trains him or her how to organize his or her thinking and to give a straightforward answer. The answer starts with one’s position backed up with legal basis and then followed by an application to the facts and a conclusion.

5. If your life were made into a movie, who would play the lead role/s?
It has to be John Lloyd Cruz. I think my friends and girlfriend will agree. Idol ko ‘yan especially his character Popoy in One More Chance.

6. How do you see yourself five (5) years from now?
Five years from now, I see myself as a lawyer specializing primarily in tax law (maybe as a Senior Associate in a law firm). I also see myself as a professor teaching, well, tax law. Around this time frame, I would have probably taken my LL.M.

7. What do you do to de-stress?
Actually, kapag nakikita ko girlfriend ko, napapawi na ang stress ko. Other than that, catching a movie at the cinema and cooking are my means to de-stress.

DANIEL GUINIGUNDO, Ateneo Law Batch 2012 (made a reviewer for Administrative Law)

1. Any tips on note-taking?
a. AVOID any sort of distractions. As hard as it may seem to avoid using the school’s free Wi-Fi and listen to your seatmates’ latest stories, it would be best to focus on the professor and make sure you get the main points, case titles and doctrines that he highlights as they are sure to come out in exams.
b. Do not hesitate to clarify anything that is unclear to you.
c. Do what works best for you! Handwritten notes are just as good, concise and complete as typewritten ones, as long as you are comfortable with writing.
d. By all means, share! You won’t get higher scores by depriving your blockmates of your hard work. If anything, the subjects that you failed to take notes on might be made available to you as well—all in the name of good will.
e. Integrate your notes with existing reviewers (don’t forget to cite) for the purpose of updating.

2. What made you decide to make a reviewer?
a. To help me to better digest and understand the material since I comprehend the subject better when I write it down.
b. I don’t like using too many study aids when I study for an exam or for daily recitation so I find it helpful to be reviewing one material only.
c. To share with my study group and to help out others who are at a loss on what to study for the subject.

3. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?
I’m a bit old-fashioned so I use my trusty Black V7 Pilot pen and notebook when taking down notes. If the professor has any side comments after the class, I use the “Notes” app on my smartphone and just incorporate it to my notes later.

4. Did the reviewers help/ benefit you in any way? How?
It helped me a LOT! Aside from the fact that I found it beneficial to be reviewing one material only (since some books, or reviewers for that matter, tend to contradict each other or are too verbose but tend to say the same thing anyway), I was able to use it for my Bar review and internship for quick reference on concepts and case doctrines.

5. Who is your idol?
My dad. With his seemingly impossible schedule at work, he still finds time to spend the weekends with us and to eat dinner at home everyday despite the numerous invitations and functions that he could attend instead. Aside from that, he makes it a point to pray for us every morning and still lead our church (he is an ordained pastor). A person who can walk the talk and can make his God and his family his top priority before his career? Now that’s the kind of man I want to be.

6. What is your remedy for a bad day?
Watching my favorite series or Pancake House’s pan fried chicken! (Editor’s Note: Dan was The Palladium’s Editor-in-Chief during S.Y. 2011-2012)

ATHENA LOUISE ERANDIO, Ateneo Law Batch 2014 (made reviewers and/ or digests for Administrative Law, Political Law, etc).

1. Any tips on note-taking?
It depends on the professor really, but the technique I find that works best is marginal note-taking. I have the messiest law books because I usually just scribble down the important things that come out of class discussions, even during recitations. I know it sounds archaic but marginal note-taking is actually a quick note-taking method because what you write down serves as a SUPPLEMENT to something not already in the book. It’s also easier to refer to since you usually place it beside the codal provision it explains (sometimes with long-winding arrows).

It also helps to be prepared before class so you won’t get lost in the middle of the discussion. It’s easier to take down notes and to sift through less important details if you have an idea what topic you’re discussing.

2. How did you take down notes? Did you record, type or write them down during class? What apps did you use, if any?
When I’m not writing it down on margins, and when there’s no prescribed book, I’m usually on my laptop. I just listen to the professor and type down the more important details of the discussion. I don’t download any special apps, I just use whatever software can host texts and just type away. It helps if you’re a fast typist.

3. Which subjects/ professors did you find conducive for note-taking?
Administrative Law under Atty. Agra, Remedial Law subjects under Atty. Tranquil, Succession under Atty. Balane and Trademarks Law under Atty. Ortiguerra. What’s similar among all these professors is that they take their time to explain the nitty-gritty of the law. They don’t just go through a specific provision quickly and disorderly. They take time to go into the details and the practical aspects of the law or a specific situation.

4. Did the reviewers help/ benefit you in any way? How?
Definitely. Reviewers have a way of assuring you that someone went through the same thing you’re presently experiencing and survived. It’s a guide to help you predict the flow of discussion and what topic you should focus on. Also, let’s admit it, reviewers have a way of cutting down the number of pages you need to read since the person who made it already edited out the unnecessaries. As the saying goes, study smart!

5. How would you describe your four years in law school?
In one word—challenging.

6. What do you do to de-stress?
Sports, food and sleep. I always make sure I get enough sleep before I go to school. Again, study smart. Sometimes, you don’t need to go on an all-nighter just to finish reading for one subject. If the odds are in your favor, you might not even get called the next day for that specific subject. Find a perfect balance for everything and maybe you won’t even feel the stress. But of course, make sure you make-up for what you didn’t read, or it will come back to haunt you come finals week.

7. What’s on your music playlist?
I listen to a lot of upbeat songs when I study (and even when I’m not studying). Sometimes, love songs. Definitely, songs with a lot of lyrics I can sing to like Sara Bareilles, Adele, and Karmin covers. None of that classical music and instrumental stuff because [these tend] to dampen my mood and [make] me just want to stay in bed. I do have them in my playlist, but I find that I rarely ever play them.

Leave a Reply