Should I Handwrite or Type My Notes For Science?

As a Year 11 or Year 12 student who is preparing for your Higher School Certificate (HSC) in Chemistry and Physics, you'll often be faced with the dilemma: "should I handwrite or type my notes?" Both methods have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, the choice depends on what works best for you. In this post, we'll explore these options, helping you make an informed decision that suits your learning style.

Why should I Make Notes for HSC Chemistry and Physics?

The purpose of making notes in HSC Chemistry and Physics, whether through typing or handwriting, is pivotal for effective learning.

First and foremost, note-making involves summarising information from class lectures, textbooks, and other resources into a more concise format, using your own words. This practice not only aids in distilling complex concepts but also ensures that you truly comprehend the material.

As you write or type, it's crucial to process and understand each piece of information; if something doesn't make complete sense, it's a signal to pause and seek clarity. Your notes should evolve to become a reflection of your growing knowledge throughout your HSC journey.

Notes are not just static records of knowledge but are also dynamic tools for learning; every time you encounter a forgotten detail or learn something new, your notes should be the first place you turn to for reinforcement. Regularly revising and refining your notes, by adding new insights or streamlining them for clarity, will make them an invaluable resource for review and a mirror of your educational progression in these challenging subjects.

Advantages of Typing Notes


  • Efficiency and Organisation: Typing allows you to quickly search, edit, and rearrange your notes. This is incredibly useful in subjects like Chemistry and Physics, where you might need to add new information to a topic covered in the past. The addition of new information to an older topic in a streamline manner is a difficulty which can be encountered if you are writing your notes. 

  • Ability to Incorporate Multimedia: Digital notes make it easy to include images, diagrams, and graphs. These visual aids are crucial for understanding complex concepts and are beneficial during revision.

  • Accessibility: Typed notes can be accessed from various devices, making them readily available whenever you need to study.

Disadvantages of Typing Notes

  • Less Recall: Studies suggest that typing notes might not be as effective for retaining information in the long term compared to handwriting. You may often forget what you had just typed out if you do not intently process the information you're typing out.

  • Lack of Understanding: Some students make digital notes by copying and pasting information from other sources. You may find that by doing so you will not only find it difficult to remember the information but also fail to understand the underlying concepts. Thus, it is important to intently process the information and re-type it in your own words. 

  • Distractions: Digital devices can be a source of distraction, especially with the temptation to switch to social media or other online platforms.

Advantages of Handwriting Notes

Student writing notes


  • Improved Recall: Studies show that handwriting notes often require more effort and engagement with the material than typing. This can ultimately lead to a better ability to recall knowledge and thus improve your understanding.

  • Personalisation: Handwritten notes allow for more personalised annotations and margin notes, which can aid in making connections and understanding concepts.

Disadvantages of Handwriting Notes

  • Time-Consuming: Handwriting is generally slower than typing, which might not be ideal if you're already struggling with time management during the HSC. In addition, while it is important to make handwritten notes presentable and legible, spending time making them pretty may not be an effective use of time. 

  • Organisation Challenges: Unlike digital notes, handwritten notes can be harder to rearrange or search through for specific information. For example, if you had forgotten about a piece of information and only could remember a key word, it would be much more difficult to locate the relevant notes when they are handwritten compared to typed. This will only become increasingly problematic as you make more and more notes throughout HSC year.

Should I Rewrite My Notes for HSC Chemistry and Physics?

When preparing for HSC Chemistry and Physics exams, students often wonder if rewriting their notes is a beneficial strategy. Rewriting notes can be a time-consuming process, so it's essential to weigh the pros and cons before deciding.

Pros of Rewriting Notes

  • Enhanced Memory Recall: Rewriting notes helps in reinforcing the material. The act of writing information down again can aid in better memory retention, making it easier to recall during exams.
  • Opportunity for Reorganisation: This process allows you to organise your thoughts and information more effectively. You can structure your notes in a way that makes more sense to you, potentially improving your understanding of complex topics.
  • Identifying Gaps in Knowledge: While rewriting, you might come across areas that you don't understand as well as you thought. This can be a great opportunity to identify and focus on these weaker areas.

Cons of Rewriting Notes

  • Time-Consuming: Rewriting notes can be very time-intensive. This time might be better spent on other study methods like practicing past papers or engaging in group study. This is the biggest downside of re-writing notes, and one you need to balance with the numerous benefits of re-writing notes.
  • Diminishing Returns: For some students, the benefits of rewriting notes might not justify the time investment. If you already have a good grasp of the material, your time might be better spent on active learning techniques. Some students delay practising questions and doing past exam papers because they feel unprepared. If this is you, you should know that you will also be able to enhance memory recall and identify knowledge gaps by getting questions correct and incorrect, respectively. 
  • Potential for Passive Learning: There's a risk of engaging in passive learning, where you're rewriting notes without truly engaging with the material. This can give a false sense of preparedness. This is another reason why it is always more effective to revise and prepare for a HSC chemistry or physics assessment by applying your knowledge in a question-answer format.

Should I Handwrite or Type My Notes?

While making notes is a crucial aspect of studying for HSC Chemistry and Physics, it shouldn't be the sole focus of your learning journey. Remember, the effectiveness of your study method, whether it's handwritten or typed notes, largely depends on your personal learning style.

Don't forget however, to balance note-taking with other effective study strategies. Examples of this including applying your knowledge, perhaps by teaching others, and rigorously practicing exam questions. These methods not only enhance your understanding but also prepare you better for the HSC exams. Remember, the key to success in HSC Chemistry and Physics lies in understanding and applying concepts, not just memorising them!

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