As a college student you will need to perfect your method of note taking. It is essential to take down good notes so you will be able to easily understand the material when studying for exams. Learning and utilizing good note taking skills is an asset that will benefit you throughout your entire college career. There are a variety of ways to take notes, but the Cornell Note Taking System is a method that is very efficient.

What is the Cornell Note Taking Method?

Designed by Walter Pauk of Cornell University, the Cornell method allows you to take notes that are organized and easy to understand. The key to this system is to write down the main ideas and use abbreviations instead of rewriting complete sentences from the lecture.

Cornell Notes

How to use the Cornell System

1) Divide your page into two columns; the cue/keyword column and the note-taking column. Your note-taking column should be about six inches wide while your cue column should be about two to three inches wide. Label your columns as such. Leave room at the bottom of the page for your summary.

2) Next, you should follow what the method calls “The Five R’s”.

  • Record: During class, use the note-taking column to record important ideas and facts. Try not to write out complete sentences as this will take too much time. Instead use abbreviations or symbols. Be sure to write clearly and jot down page numbers for reference to your text for later use. During this step you should also take the time to summarize your notes. Leave yourself a few inches of extra space at the bottom of your page for a brief summary.

  • Reduce: After class or soon after, go through the notes you took during class and summarize them using one or two words. Record these in your cue/keyword column. This allows you to reduce large chucks of information into one or two keywords for better organization.

  • Recite: Fold your paper in half or cover the note-taking column. Go through the keywords you recorded and try to recall the main ideas of the lecture using your own words.

  • Reflect: Go through your notes and think about the significance of the facts or how you can apply them to other facts from your text. Form opinions and relationships with the information.

  • Review: You should review your notes often. Spend time going over the material for a few minutes each day. This will help you retain the information and be well prepared for the upcoming exam.

Of course, some students may have other note-taking methods that they find work better for them. The Cornell method is one that has been used by many students over the past 50 years and is recommended by most professors across the country. After using the Cornell system you may notice that you retain more information from your lectures and your notes are easier to understand when preparing for exams.