Ask yourself – what do your notes look like?

Do you scribble every word the teacher says in a hurry as the lecture goes on, or do you have one of those neat notebooks with different colored pens for headings and text?

Do you just note down keywords to look up later, or were you the student who never believed in note-taking?

Whatever your style may have been, you’ve come to the right place for the secret to the most effective style of note-taking. It has been around for over 70 years now and is still alive and thriving!

The Cornell Note Taking method can safely be called the best note-taking method. Not just that, it is also very simple and doesn’t require much extra time in organization and preparation.

Want to learn more about the Cornell note-taking method and how it works? Then dive right in!


What is Cornell Note-Taking? (Definition)

The Cornell Note Taking method is a system of taking notes that was devised by Walter Pauk, the then director of Cornell University’s Reading and Study Skills Center. It primarily focuses on visually organizing notes in an orderly manner.

First proposed in the 1950s, Walter Pauk wrote about this note-taking method in his book How to Study in College published in 1962.

The Cornell Note Taking method is a flexible method of note-taking that can be used with any format of study materials, whether it’s live lectures, video content, class discussions, or textbook revisions.

To make notes in this method, the only preparation required is dividing the pages into four unequal sections.

  • One section for the main body of notes taken down
  • One section for keywords and questions
  • The last section for a summary of the notes from the main section.
  • Another optional section can also be made at the top of the page to mention the title or topic of the notes.

This format helps note-takers organize their material in a systematic way, allowing space for revisions and reviews on the same page itself.

This ensures that last-minute revisions also become more effective as your keywords, questions and summaries are all in one place. And if you need them for reference, your main notes are on the same page too!

Now that you are aware of what Cornell note-taking is and how it works, let’s go over the benefits of this wonderful method.


The Benefits of Cornell Note-Taking

Note-taking helps you summarize, study, review, elaborate, re-organize and fill in the gaps.

The popular Cornell Note Taking method comprises the “5 Rs of note-taking”, a list that highlights the basic functionality of any efficient system of note-taking.

This is how the Cornell Note Taking method incorporates all five Rs and creates an easy-to-use system:

1. Record 

The Cornell note-taking format dedicates ample space for notes to be noted down during a lecture or while reading. Live note-taking is an important part of the process as these recorded notes are then used as a starting point to prepare from. This format leaves the biggest section to be used for recording notes.


2. Reduce 

The next important element that a note-taking system should have is space to shorten your notes, so that they are easier to revise. The Cornell note-taking format has space at the bottom of the page to create summaries of your notes. Such a reduction of study material makes revising much easier and more effective.


3. Recite 

Notes are made to ease the studying process, and recitation is an important tool in the revision process. The Cornell note-taking system has a column for keywords and questions that help one revise their notes effectively using the right cues to recall information.


4. Reflect

Notes aren’t just meant to be mugged up and printed onto exams and assignments. In order to truly benefit from your notes, you have to be able to reflect on the notes you take. If our notes are disorganized and jumbled, this can be a difficult task.

With the Cornell note-taking method your notes will be much neater and easier to reflect upon as they are separated into keywords and questions, notes, and summaries.


5. Review

Since revision is among the most important steps of note-taking, using a revision-friendly note format is a great advantage to the study process. The Cornell note-taking method gives you exactly this. It is one of the most effective formats for a quick review of your study material. Not only does it make learning easier but it also assists by arranging the material in a systemized manner.

Now that we know about the five Rs in Cornell note-taking, let’s quickly go over the simple benefits of using this method:

  • Offers an interactive note-taking process where you are actively listening and using high-level thinking skills to organize your notes.
  • Provides you easy access to keywords and concepts to accelerate and optimize your learning process.
  • Acts a study guide and offers a well-structured framework for students to kickstart their learning process.
  • Promotes clearer and enhanced thinking through a visual and clutter-free note-taking process.
  • Helps reinforce and retain key concepts and pushes information from short-term to long-term memory.

We’ve seen how this method gives us the best of note-taking, so let’s see how we can use the format for ourselves when taking notes!


How to Take Notes Using the Cornell Note-Taking Method?

Step 1. Divide Your Page into Sections

Cornell note-taking is all about taking down notes in the most organized manner. For this, what you have to do is divide your page into four sections

  • Mark about 5-7 lines off from the bottom of your page. This will be the summary section.
  • In the remaining part of the page draw a line to divide the page 30:70, the smaller section to the left and the larger one to the right. Use the large section to the right to jot down points in class or when you read. This is your notes section.
  • The smaller section to the left should be used to write down relevant keywords and questions that may be asked from the material. This section is called the cues section. It can also be known as the keywords or questions section.
  • You can draw another section at the top of the page, with 2-3 lines of space to write the title and date. The title section doesn’t have to come on all your pages, but having it at the beginning of new topics helps organize notes.


Step 2. Label Your Pages

When you start taking notes, label each new page with the topic and the date. Doing this regularly will ensure that your notes aren’t lost or mixed up with any other notes and are always organized. This step fills up the top section of your page.


Step 3. Take Down Notes

This is the part that is most essential. All the following steps in the method depend on the notes made in this step. After all, this is primarily a note-taking process.

When in class or reading an important text, jot down the points that seem important, or the ones you think would be helpful to have for reference. You can also include diagrams and illustrations as well.

These should be written in the large section on the right.


Step 4. Include Questions and Keywords

Use your notes to keep track of points that your instructor tells you are important. Make note of the keywords associated with your topic and the questions to expect.

If your instructor doesn’t do this, don’t worry. After the lecture, you can sit down with your notes and go over them to find the important keywords for the different points you cover in your notes or the questions that you find arising out of the notes you’ve taken.

This column is useful later in providing cues for recollecting your notes and study material.


Step 5. Summarize

Once your notes and cues sections are filled, you have to fill up the section at the bottom of the page which is the summary section.

Read the notes you’ve made and shorten them to create a brief outline of your notes for the summary section. This step is very useful later when you use your notes for revision and lesson recaps.


Step 6. Stay in Touch

You’ve made great notes in class, you sat down with them afterward and summarized them too.

What do you do now? Putting your notes aside at this point could make all your efforts redundant. Regularly revising these notes will help them stay fresh in your memory.

Since these notes also have summaries and cues to help with revision, like keywords and important questions, regular revision becomes a much simpler task than it would otherwise.

Using these steps you can make notes using a method that incorporates an entire study process into it.

By breaking down the process into smaller steps and allowing us to complete all the steps on the same sheets, the Cornell note-taking method makes note-taking and studying an easier process!

Before you go, we want to introduce you to the perfect tool for taking notes!

Want to know more? Then scroll down right now! Tool for Creating Perfect Notes is a new-age cloud-based document collaboration and note-taking app that allows you to create awesome and visually-appealing notes, assignments, reports, and other classroom documents in just a few minutes!

Bit has a clean and minimal editor that provides you with a rich note-taking experience. You can use Markdown to quickly format your notes by adding headers, footers, checklists, numbered lists, and more with keyboard shortcuts.

What makes Bit awesome is the fact that it allows you to create smart workspaces around different projects, teams, and departments to keep all your notes and information organized. Its smart search feature allows you to search and find any notes that you’ve created across all of your workspaces very quickly.

With bit, you can tell a story beyond simple notes by adding images, videos, links, code snippets, rich media, and even files to add context around your notes and foster deep learning.

Want to share your notes with others? Bit lets you do that with its real-time collaboration feature! It allows you to collaborate in real-time on the notes via chat, in-line comments, @mentions, and more. It even allows you to share your notes in a live state with anyone you want and updates all the changes in real-time.

Moreover, features like document tracking, password protection, expiration dates, file access restrictions, etc. help keep your class notes and other workplace documents safe.

All-in-all Bit will provide you with a one-of-a-kind note-taking and documentation experience! So quit waiting around and get Bit right away!



Repetition is probably one of the most effective methods for improving memory, and it is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.

You don’t have to rely on mugging-up or a ‘strong memory’ if you revise your notes frequently. You can master any subject if your note-taking techniques are effective.

That’s why we have introduced you to one of the most effective methods of note-taking: The Cornell note-taking method.

Keep in mind that you can modify the Cornell note-taking system to better fit your learning style. After all, there’s no better note-taking approach than one that you devised on your own.

Happy note-taking! Adios!

Further reads: 

Conversion Rate: What is it & How to Improve it?

How To Make Class Notes Worth Reading?

Soap Notes: What are they & How to Create them?

12 Best Note-Taking Apps for Better Productivity!