How to take Cornell notes【PDF Template】

Knowing how to take notes orderly to understand what is written is essential. We often have to take notes to get all the details of what is being said, whether in a class, a press conference, court, etc. Notes help us to keep everything organized, as we can lose messages. That may be because we often need help understanding what we have written in them.

That is why there are different ways to write notes, and one of them is through the Cornell system, a method created in the last century that, to this day, is still valid for its effectiveness.

What are Cornell’s notes?

Cornell notes are a way of taking notes orderly so that no data is overlooked. This system was developed in 1950 by Walter Pauk, a writer and professor at Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York. Pauk wrote a book called “How to Study in College,” in which he explained this novel and easy way of taking notes, among other study strategies and methods.

The Cornell method divides one page into sections: Cues, Notes, and Summary. In the notes section, you write down all the critical information explained by the professor or what was said at a press conference, for example. In addition, you include what was discussed in the class or lecture.

You should leave a short space between the notes to fill in the main details and other important information.

What are Cornell notes for?

From the beginning, Cornell notes were used by students to take notes in lectures. However, this method was acquired by teachers and professionals to record what is being said on the spot. Due to its incredible effectiveness, anyone who needs to take notes can do so through the Cornell method. You can use this method for:

  • Taking notes at press or traditional conferences.
  • Use it as a method for study and written materials.
  • For PowerPoint presentations.

How to use Cornell notes: The 6R

If you are wondering how to take Cornell notes, keep in mind the 6Rs proposed by Pauk in his book written for Cornell University, which describes this method as an effective way to take notes. These 6Rs refer to the six main points that students should follow to take Cornell notes and obtain an efficient result:

1. Record

This part is a brief record in which the primary and critical ideas of the content are noted, as they are the basis of the annotations. They are short but meaningful sentences that start what will be developed throughout the class.

2. Reduce

Once you have finished the class or lecture, it is necessary to write down each summarized idea in the remarks section. The division into parts of Cornell’s method helps you to write down, in a synthesized form, the ideas that were added during the class but are understandable. In this way, the listener can differentiate the main ideas from the secondary ones.

3. Recite

A technique widely used for its effectiveness in remembering notes is to recite aloud what is to be learned. This method helps to develop auditory memory since it has been studied that the person, when listening to himself, has a greater capacity to retain the information.

To use the technique of reading aloud, the student can take the notes made in the “observations” section as a starting point to later develop and expand on the topic.

4. Reflect

The idea of speaking aloud is to understand what is expressed in the “Cue” section and not to learn by heart what is said since memory and comprehension go hand in hand to learn naturally and not mechanically, which leads to repeating without analyzing the content. It is necessary to analyze the text carefully to understand it, paying attention and reflecting on the notes taken during the class. This way, it is possible to answer a question in an exam from a personal point of view, explained in one’s own words.

5. Review

It is one of the fundamental methods for information retention. It is crucial to review what is written in the notebook daily to avoid arriving the day before the exam without preparing a topic. By reading the notes daily, the information is recorded in a “personal” way, not as it is written in a book.

That is helpful because it does not say verbatim what was said in class but explains what the student understood. Also, it helps to arrive on the day of the exam with all the points studied and learned. In short, the revision and review of the content periodically are essential to organize the study time.

6. Recap

This step is of utmost importance to assimilate all the information learned since it is possible to make a better summary of the content, synthesizing concepts and specifying information to conclude what has been known.

In short, this step helps the student associate ideas and order all learned according to the subject, date, etc.

You can download Cornell notes PDF templates by clicking on the bottom below.


Tips for taking Cornell notes

The Cornell method is used to retain written information in an organized manner. This way of studying can help students improve their study skills and have a more accessible time learning and understanding. You can neatly follow some of these Cornell note-taking tips:

  • Indicate the name of the course

Before the class begins, write down the course’s name and date. It seems unimportant, but later it will help you keep track of what you learned and make it easier to organize your notes.

  • Notes in the most relevant section

While in class, you must write down all the most relevant information in the most extensive section, which is the one on the right side of the page. Use meaningful and relevant phrases to understand what you are writing.

  • Highlight the information to be studied

When the professor is discussing a crucial topic, highlight in your notes that this part is “important.” If the professor says that he/she will take that topic in the exam, write on the side that you must study that part, or you can underline it or highlight it.

  • Brief and concise

Remember that organization is key to understanding the notes. You must be as precise as possible to differentiate the crucial topics from those that are secondary. Use abbreviations to save time when taking notes.

  • General ideas

Write down each lesson’s main ideas so you can understand what is written and not just study it by heart. If you go into detail on each topic, you will need more space to continue writing down other main ideas since several pieces of information are irrelevant. In short, writing down the general concepts will save space and time, and it will be easier to understand and connect all the ideas expressed in the notes.

  • New page

Before you start writing, draw a margin on the page, leave a space and start writing the ideas on the right side. That will help to differentiate the concepts and, in turn, study them in parts.

  • Questions

If you have questions after the teacher has explained a topic, write them in a section and then ask the teacher about them. If he/she cannot answer you because there was no time or something else, you can research on your own to get the answer you need.

  • Editing

After you finish the notes, questions, and everything explained above, review your messages and correct them to clarify what you have written. A good option is to move the edited and updated information to a new page, which also helps your visual memory.