How to Use Cornell Method of Note Taking


Taking notes is essential and one of the skills that students should master. You could take notes down by hand or use electronic devices such as iPads, smartphones.

If you are taking notes using old fashioned way, then there are a lot of note-taking strategies you could use. However, not all of them are very effective note-taking strategies. And Cornell method is one of those best effective note-taking strategies out there.

What is Cornell note-taking method

Cornell method was introduced by the Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University in the 1950s and it appears to be one of the effective note-taking methods of all note-taking methods. It’s really simple and anyone could use this note-taking method. And this only requires little to no preparation which makes it one of the easiest note-taking methods in the classroom. Also, his note-taking method allows you to organize your notes quicker, visualize content, and quiz yourself when exams are near.

Cornell Notes Template – Page Layout


To take notes use a large loose-leaf notebook. To make the layout use notebook paper and divide it into a large I shaped consists of two columns and a spacious row under those two columns. The right column should have 6 or more inches. Draw a verticle line 2.5 inches left from the paper and a bottom row with a height of 2 inches.

Note-Taking Column

This would be the column that you will use in your lectures most of the time, therefore having more space in this column would be very helpful.

Cue (Recall) Column

Use this column to revise the stuff you learned in the lecture. You can use the recall column to note down special keywords, phrases that you will need in the future.

Summary Row

This row would be used to summarize the content of the page after revising the lecture notes. Don’t try to write down everything from the note-taking column in the summary section. Keep reading the lecture notes and reduce content to a small paragraph or a few. Use abbreviations and keywords that could short down the note.

How to Take Notes Using Cornell Method

cornell method steps
source: Tumblr

01. Record 

During the lecture record the general idea and the concepts using phrases, sentences, and keywords. Avoid using lengthy sentences which could be done using abbreviations. Use skip of lines to show the end of thoughts which would be helpful when revising the notes.

02. Question

After lectures, based on the notes on the right-side column take down relevant questions in the cue column on the left side. Taking down these questions would help you clarify meanings, make the relationship between content, establish continuity, and help you memorize more. Also, these questions will come in handy later when you are preparing for exams.

03. Recite

Take a piece of paper and cover the right-hand side column (note-taking column). Then looking at questions on the left-hand side column which is the cue column try to answer them in your own words with your memory. Do not take a peek at the note-taking column, if there is something you forgot take a look after answering the questions. Say aloud the answers and any other facts, ideas, or concepts you have taken down on the note-taking section which will more likely help you to memorize the subject matter.

04. Reflect 

Ask yourself questions significant to the lecture notes such as,

  • What is the significance of this fact?
  • What principles are they based on?
  • How can I apply them?
  • How will they fit in with what I already learned and know?
  • What is beyond them?

Asking these questions will help you learn the topics more deeply and clear any misunderstandings you had.

05. Review As Soon As Possible

Taking notes would be useless if you won’t review what you have noted down soon as possible. So, make sure that you start revising the content you noted down within 24 hours after the lecture. After this step, you could write the summary of the note-taking column on the bottom summary row in your own words. Spend at least ten minutes every week to take a look at the past notes which will help you understand the recently learned concepts and help you prepare for the exams much better.

In a Nutshell

The Cornell method is an effective note-taking strategy that anyone could use without much trouble. Apart from taking down notes faster, it will also help you learn things much faster compared to other note-taking methods. At the end if you keep reviewing the past notes taken using Cornell method, you may end up with better grades.

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