Taking Notes in medical school

iPad Notes

One of my frequently asked questions is, "How do you take notes in Medical School?".  I have always been an organized student, but when I was accepted into AUC I knew I had to be exponentially more organized.  Some of the best advice I can give incoming students is to absolutely BUY AN iPAD. I know they can be expensive, but I believe it is essential in staying organized with PowerPoints and condensing your notes on a daily basis.  An iPad is your way to keep all of your notes, class PowerPoints, books, and flashcard all on ONE device.  

To help future students I am going to show you how I believe is the most effective way for me to take notes in Medical School.  This by no means may be beneficial for everyone reading this blog post, but I certainly hope you can take aspects from this post that can help you in one way or another. 

First lets start with some of my favorite apps for note taking is..



Google Drive

Google Slides

After starting classes, download all of your notes into Notability.  You can head to your schools website and download the lecture using Safari.  When exporting the slides, I found the best way to organize in the Notability app was to use the "Divider" to separate by semester and then in each Divider put individual subjects you're taking.  I then numbered each subject by number according to the order that they were lectured in.  I recently discovered it is easier to separate the term by weeks (i.e. Week One labeled as 1. Example, Week 2 as 2. Example). For instance, if you're learning about skin you would label the folder "1. Skin". Then you import all of your PowerPoints/PDFs into one file for that week and labeling it seems to be the most organized.  

After you have separated your subjects and have imported your lectures for the day, create a new page to start taking notes on the subject.  I usually also make this the same number as the week I am doing notes in (i.e. "1. Skin Notes" for week one notes). After setting your header, I like to import fonts to use as a title.  I do this by using the app "Over".  They offer many different fonts you can use that are free of charge.  You can also purchase different fonts if you do not like any of the free fonts they offer.  They have 100's of fonts you can choose from and download. 


Once in the "Over" app use the transparent paper, and type out the title you wish to use - "1. Skin Notes".  Edit it to the type of font you would like, and then save it as a photo to your camera roll.  Exit out of the "Over" app and go back into Notability.  In the right hand corner of Notability you can add an image.  Once you import the image/text from "Over" you can drag and change the size of the image to fix your page.  You can also add different highlighter or pen shape around the title. To align straight titles, you can push and hold down your apple pencil to draw a straight line.  You can also turn on and off graph paper or any other lined paper for straight notes or lines. 

Once you have set your title, I recommend keeping the background on graph paper to more easily align notes. Other ways to keep your notes more organized is to use the different sized pen sizes and colors to emphasize different points.  It is also easy to copy and paste different words or drawings you might wish to use at another location in your notes.  Using arrows and lines makes it easy to distinguish difference on histological slides, graphs, and pictures. 

To be more effective, you can also open up a split screen with notability.  Swipe from left to right on the right hand side and drag and drop a previously new note.  This allows you to read your Powerpoint or PDF notes from class while simultaneously writing your own notes.  You can also switch between notes instead of dragging and dropping.  Lastly, if you have an important picture, graph, or table you would like to add from a previous note, screenshot it and crop its dimensions. That way you can import it as a picture. 

When you're done writing, you can export your iPad note into a pdf and print.  Make sure to unselect "paper margins" that way your notes can stay large enough to fit an entire sheet of paper.  You can then select any printer that is wifi compatible.  I personally bought the Brother MFC-J480D (Click here to find out more). I found this printer to be extremely reasonably priced, ability to print double sided, and with incredible quality.  I am not an expert on printers but this has been beyond my expectations.  

After printing, I use the arc binder with dividers to add pages into my binder.  I find the Arc binder to be the most compact compared to any 3 ring binder.  When you buy one binder, you should also buy different sized rings. You can pull these in and out with increasing paper size.  Personally I bought the 2 inch rings and have not replaced them.  I continue to add to the 2 inch rings.  For the past 3 semesters, I have been able to fit all of my notes within this ONE binder because of how compact the pages are.  

Click on the links below to check out different Arc Binders and accessories

ARC Binder

ARC dividers

ARC ring

ARC planner hole punch

ARC planner compact hole punch


Click here for access to my notes

I do not recommend using my notes instead of making your own.  Everyone learns differently. You also retain more information when you write your own notes. Instead, use this as a template to build your own notes or use these notes to visualize a concept map to help create your own notes. This should help guide you when you are creating your own one-page summaries/notes. Use with your own discretion as there may also be errors.  

Good Luck!