Cornell Note-Taking System – Meaning And How To Master It

Posted: February 23 2021 @ 4:30 AM | Author: Hitesh Bhasin

Cornell note-taking system is a method of writing organized and clear notes so that they prove effective while reading later on. The system is very explicit in its instructions so that the students can record the notes and absorb it without wasting any unnecessary time and use it to their advantage.

This system aims to retain as much information as possible and improve learning experiences.

Meaning of the Cornell notes system

Cornell note-taking system is known by several names like Cornell way, Cornell method, and Cornell Notes System. Dr. Walter Pauk created it in the 1940s, an education professor belonging to Cornell University.

He has mentioned in detail how to use this system in his bestseller How to study in college. The purpose of the book was to help the students in their accomplishments so that the notes they take during classes were actually meaningful and could later help them to study in a much better way.

How to master the Cornell note-taking system?

The Cornell note-taking example is a boon for visual learners as it helps organize ideas in an ordered manner. The Cornell note-taking system involves every aspect of taking notes and has made provisions accordingly.

There is ample space for writing down the notes or information, for study cues, and for writing the summary. The designer of this system has also kept a separate place to record the name of the course, topic, and the date of the lessons to keep things in order.

The page layout of the Cornell note-taking template looks like this.

How to master the Cornell note-taking system

An essential suggestion at the time of note-taking includes using color markers to divide the page into two columns. The smaller column occupies nearly 30% of the space and the larger 70%. There is also one section at the top and another at the bottom with five to seven lines.

Take the following steps for creating an effective Cornell notes system.

1. Record

The first step in the Cornell notes system is to record important information. All the notes are written in the larger column, so it has been given more space. The smaller column on the left side is used for questions about the notes that you are writing so that it can help later on and also for writing critical comments and keywords.

This is an effort to make the reviewing process easy so that the student does not have to waste any time during exam preparations. There is one section at the top to write the name, topic, and date. Important tips to keep in mind are

  • The writing should be eligible and neat even if you have to give the effort a few seconds extra so that you do not have to waste time deciphering them later on during the exams when you are seriously pressed for time

  • Do not use complete sentences as you will not be able to include all the information on the page

  • Take the help of shorthand and devise a system beforehand so that you recognize what you have written

  • Make sure to leave a space between the lines as a precautionary method as you might have to add important information later on

2. Reduce

You have written down the notes in your class, but your work is far from over. Take a few minutes to go over them and clear up any writing that seems illegible to you. The information is still fresh in your mind, and you will remember it easily enough.

This is the time to look at the key points and write it in the left-hand column as study cues besides the corresponding information. Write the summary in your words in the end section of your page so that you can remember the relationship between the ideas later on.

Pay special attention to this step as you will have to go through this during your exams. Make it as useful as possible to find all the essential information by looking at the cues when the time comes.

3. Recite

If you are an auditory learner, then take a few minutes and speak the major points written in your study cues. Try to remember what you have heard and learned in the class by looking at the cues and not the detailed notes.

Take a peep and check the notes to see if you have got all the things right. When the oral learner speaks the information aloud, it helps him to understand the words and retain the information.

4. Reflect

Reflecting on what you have heard, written, and learned is the only way to retain the information. Writing the summary does not mean that you write a shorter version of the notes.

Include your thoughts by engaging and understanding the information. Include your interpretation, relevant questions, and personal reflection to establish a meaningful connection.

5. Review

Review your notes throughout your semester to negate the pressure of studying at the last hour. When you keep reviewing your notes at regular intervals, it becomes easy to retain the information and use it appropriately.


The benefits of Cornell notes are as follows-

  1. It helps to keep the notes organized

  2. The efficient page layout proves a time-saving process

  3. Crates efficient and structured study sheets

  4. There is no need for recopying

  5. The systematic approach makes reviewing easy


The disadvantages of the Cornell notes system are as follows-

  1. The student has to follow the lecture diligently; otherwise, it will not be possible to maintain perfect notes

  2. It requires regular reviewing, and most students do not have the time or the inclination for it


Cornell notes pdf is a systematic approach that has proved a blessing for the students who previously found note-taking a stressful undertaking.

This incredibly powerful tool helps to absorb and retain information at a faster pace and has made the journey of revisiting the content smooth and easy.

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