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Color Coding Your Way to A Good Grade

Published on January 18, 2017 by Tom Westover

No matter your study style or your note taking method, you probably use at least some form of color coding in your current personal study habits. At minimum, most people use a highlighter, or the highlighting function on the computer, to mark text that is important. The sheer volume of people that use this method of studying should be an indicator that using color in your study strategy is a good idea, however, most students do not take the extra step to explore other ways that color can enhance their study techniques.

One of the main reasons that students often stop their study enhancements with highlighters is that they feel the additional time investment obtaining and learning how to use other color coding methods could better be spent reviewing the actual material. While this may be true for a brief period as you learn to properly implement an effective color coding strategy, the time that you will save on the back end once you have mastered the technique is absolutely worth it.

Once you have decided you are willing to take the leap into the world of color coding, you are going to need to obtain some basic supplies. Visit a local office supply store and try out various colored pens to find a style that works best for you. Depending on the method of note taking you use, the thickness of the paper in your textbook, and many other factors, the type of colored pens your select is one of the most important decisions you will make. Once you have found a brand that fits your style, you need to buy as many colors as possible. Don’t stop with green, blue, black, and red. The more variety you have, the more you will be able to make distinctions in the way you use the color. You will also need sticky notes and tabs in a wide variety of colors and at least one pack of colored ruled or copy paper.

With your new rainbow of supplies, you need to select a subject that you feel you have a decent handle on to serve as the guinea pig. By using material that you are comfortable with to help you determine the best way to utilize your new color coding system, you will avoid unnecessary frustration that could derail your organization efforts. Think about the material in a way that makes sense to you. Start to organize and categorize concepts in your mind that make the most sense together. Assign each category a color family. For example, for an English course, you may decide that all English literature is going to be in the blue family. Now, you can use a trickle down method to work color into your other study items. Any notes you take from here on out related to English literature should be written in a blue-toned pen. Use different shades of blue to help you organize further. Blue-green could be the color you use for important authors. Navy could be the color you use for important characters. Finally, use the blue paper for any outlines or study guides that you compile on English literature and the blue sticky notes to mark any relevant material in your text. Notes taken online can be similarly shaded blue using the features in Word. Give color coding a try, and you will be amazed at how easy it is at exam time to quickly and efficiently organize your information and begin studying.

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