How to Take College Notes on the iPad & Digital Bullet Journal

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How to take college notes on an iPad and digital bullet journal using the app Notability. The tutorial explains how to set up your iPad and how to use the Notability tools to take organized college notes.♡

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

In the tutorial, I explain how to take college notes in the iPad using the app Notability. In the first part of the blog post, I explain how to set up the Notability app. The second part of the blog post explains how to type and draw on the iPad using one of my digital planners.

If you are an Android or Windows user, try the steps from this tutorial in the apps Xodo, Metamoji, and EzPDF.


What is a Digital Bullet Journal?

A digital bullet journal is a PDF planner with hyperlinks. The hyperlinks can be images or words. When you click on one of the hyperlinks the planner automatically takes you to a specific page on the planner. I have a blog post where I explain everything about my digital bullet journal.

If you are new to digital planning, I have a blog post full of tutorials where I explain how to make your own digital bullet journal and how to decorate it.


IN THE SHOP

In my shop, I have a collection of digital planners & stickers that you can use to follow along with the tutorial. The planners can be used in the apps GoodNotes, Notability, Xodo, and more. ♡

Digital planner, digital bullet journal, digital planner stickers

This page contains affiliate links to products I use, love, and highly recommend. I receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this blog post. Thank you for your support!


How to Use Notability Take College Notes

1. Set up the Notability app on your iPad. I categorize my classes using the subjects and dividers. Start creating dividers for every school subject. After you have the dividers set up, create subjects for your classes.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

2. I organize my notes based on the exams. Inside the folder named “Exam 1 – Genetics” I put everything related only to exam 1 for my genetics class: my teacher’s notes, the notes I take on my digital bullet journal, the quizzes I take on Canvas (I save them as PDF to review the answers), and chapters from the textbook.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

3. At the bottom left of the screen, click on the “tool” icon. The icon will open the settings window, click on the “typing” section. Choose the font and the size of the font that you want to use whenever you start typing notes on the Notability app.

I also have iCloud turn on so that my notes are syncronized on my iPhone and mac computer. In the handwriting tab, turn on “shapes detection” and “palm detection”.

how to use notability, how to take college notes iPad

4. Once you have the Notability app setup, decide if you want to make your own digital bullet journal or if want to buy a pre-made digital planner.

The best thing about a digital planner is the hyperlinks. On the image below, the numbers on the index are clickable. When you click on a number, the planner automatically takes you to a specific page on the planner which makes note-taking on the Notability app fast and fun.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

If you have time, I recommend you try to make your own digital planner. It’s fun as it helps you explore your creativity. It also teaches you new skills in the Keynote and PowerPoint apps. I also have a free planner that you can try to see if digital note-taking is something that you want to use through the semester.


Index and Key

Depending on how you have your digital planner setup, you can start filling out the index and key section of the planner first and then take your notes (scroll down to skip this step and to learn how to take college notes on the iPad).

1. Open the Notability app and your digital planner. Select the “T” option int he toolbar and click on the screen to start typing. This is why selecting a font and size in the previous step was important. Any time you start typing on the planner, you don’t need to play around with the toolbar settings.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

I use one digital planner per exam. For example, on the image below I’m only adding information to the index of the planner relating to “Genetics – Exam 1”. I’m going to use this planner for my lecture notes (from my teacher’s online videos, reviews, and powerpoint notes). I’m going to use a different planner to keep track of my homework, practice exams, and practice quizzes.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

You can organize your planner any way you want, but make sure you can keep up with it. Don’t fill it up with random things. Use different digital planners for bullet journaling, college notes, and random thoughts. The key to be successful in college is organization and dedication!

The image below is how I organize the key section of my planner. On this page, I put my teacher’s information and any details that are important to remember. You can install fonts on your iPad and use them in the Notability app, the words “genetics” and “key” are fonts that I installed on my iPad. Check out this tutorial to learn how to add fonts to the iPad.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

set up your notebook:

1. Open your teacher’s notes, online class videos, or PDF textbook on your computer.

In the image below I have my teacher’s online video on the left side of the display and on the right, I have the PowerPoint notes. While I type notes from the PowerPoint slides on my digital bullet journal, I also write down important things my teacher mentions in the video.

I highly suggest you get an iPad keyboard. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can buy it second hand or a generic one on Amazon and eBay.

how to use notability how to take college notes iPad

2. On your desk, open your iPad, the Notability app,  and the digital planner you are going to use to take notes. On the Notability app, select the “T” option and click on the screen, a small box will appear where you can start typing your text.

At the bottom of the screen, there is a toolbar that you can customize. I find the bullet points and the font setting extremely helpful when I need to take notes fast during my lectures. For the letter “A” I use the font Avenir with black color in size 9, for letter “B” I have the same font but with the color red, and for letter “C” I have the font set up with a blue color. To customize the toolbar, keep your finger on the toolbar until you see the extra options.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

I have Dropbox installed on my iPad and computer. If there is an image I need to add to my notes, I open Dropbox, take a screenshot of the image, and save it on my iPad’s camera roll. If you need help learning how to take a screenshot of any iPad, check out this tutorial.

Once you take the picture, use the corners to select parts of the image that you need and click the “done” button in the top left of the screen.

how to use notability, how to take college notes iPad

3. Another way to take notes on your digital bullet journal is by using the split-screen option on your iPad. Make sure you have your teacher’s powerpoint notes on your Dropbox folder (or another cloud folder).

From the bottom of the screen, slowly drag your finger towards the top, you will see several apps at the bottom of the screen. Gently press on the Dropbox folder and drag it to the left or right side of the screen.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

Find your teacher’s PDF notes, powerpoint slides, or online video. In the Notability app, select the “T” option in the toolbar and click on the screen to start typing.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

If you need to type-specific symbols on your notes, I recommend the app “SciKey”. You can customize the keyboard with any symbols you want. Zoom in the image below to see the symbols I used.

To switch between the symbols and the regular English keyboard, keep your finger on the global icon at the bottom left of the screen.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

4. To draw on the screen, click on the pen option in the toolbar. Don’t put too much pressure on your hand, keep your hand relaxed to draw smooth on the screen. In the video below, I show how I draw on the Notability app. I used the iPad Air and the Apple Pencil.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

I highly suggest you invest in the apple pencil, it makes a huge difference on the screen as most apps don’t recognize your hand on the screen while using the pencil. This prevents you from making small mistakes while drawing. Any iPad that supports the apple pencil is perfect for digital note-taking.


Examples of my college notes

Here are some pictures of how I take my college notes. I use a font that is small enough for me to see and notice that I use the yellow highlighter for the main titles and the green highlighter for the sub-titles. Your key is your best friend when it comes to keeping your notes organized and easy to follow.

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, How to Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner

How to Use Notability, How to Take College Notes, Digital Bullet Journal, Digital Planner


A couple of tips:
  • The first time you try taking notes on your iPad it might difficult but after a couple of tries, it becomes second nature.
  • Don’t try to make your notes look perfect, take your notes in a way that is easy for you to read and to study from them.
  • If studying from the iPad doesn’t work for you, print your notes! While I was studying for a final exam, there were times when my eyes hurt from staring at my computer and iPad for a long period of time. I printed my notes and wrote on them while studying. College is hard, make it as easy for YOU to learn the material.

I hope this blog post was helpful and interesting. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section and I will be happy to answer them.

Check out my other popular note-taking blog posts:

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