Cornell Notes
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Cornell Notes

Why Learn to

Take Cornell Notes?

  • Good notes allow students to help each other problem solve.
  • Good Notes help students organize and process data and information.
  • Helps student recall by getting them to process their notes 3 times.
  • Writing is a great tool for learning!

What are

Cornell Notes?

The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two inches, at the bottom of the page.

Notes from a lecture or teaching are written in the note-taking column; notes usually consist of the main ideas of the text or lecture, and long ideas are paraphrased. Long sentences are avoided; symbols or abbreviations are used instead. To assist with future reviews, relevant questions (which should be recorded as soon as possible so that the lecture and questions will be fresh in the student’s mind) or key words are written in the key word column. These notes can be taken from any source of information, such as fiction and nonfiction books, DVDs, lectures, text books, etc.

Within 24 hours of taking the notes, the student must revise and write questions and then write a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic. When studying for either a test or quiz, the student has a concise but detailed and relevant record of previous classes.

When reviewing the material, the student can cover the note-taking (right) column while attempting to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column. The student is encouraged to reflect on the material and review the notes regularly.

Steps in Taking

Cornell Notes

  1. Record: During the lecture, use the note-taking column to record the lecture using telegraphic sentences.
  2. Questions: As soon after class as possible, formulate questions based on the notes in the right-hand column. Writing questions helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying later.
  3. Recite: Cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking at the questions or cue-words in the question and cue column only, say aloud, in your own words, the answers to the questions, facts, or ideas indicated by the cue-words.
  4. Reflect: Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions, for example: “What’s the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on? How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know? What’s beyond them?
  5. Review: Spend at least ten minutes every week reviewing all your previous notes. If you do, you’ll retain a great deal for current use, as well as, for the exam.

Tips on

Taking Notes

  • Take Notes While Reading
  • Include headings, key terms, & graphics
  • Take down only the important ideas: brief, but clear
  • Summarize in your own words
  • Use symbols to highlight for review
  • Use textbook review questions to develop study questions

Stages of Efficient

Cornell Note Taking

The Beginning Stage

  • Teacher driven(cues and questions are written by teacher)
  • Heavy Scaffolding and Guidance: (“Let’s add this piece of information.” or “This is a great diagram, let’s copy it.”)
  • Done in a group format (i.e. through discussion, the group decides what should written on the page)

The Intermediate Stage

  • Teacher and Student Driven (Cues and questions are given, but students have the freedom to add their own.)
  • Moderate scaffolding (students begin to learn their note taking style and copy notes in their notebooks during class discussion.)
  • Done in group discussion or on an individual basis

The Advanced Stage

  • Student driven (No questions or cues are given. Instead the students fill those in at the end.)
  • Freedom of choice. Students decide what information becomes a part of their notes.
  • Minimal scaffolding required/ peer to peer scaffolding (students bounce ideas off of each other during group share times.)

Tips for Studying

With Cornell Notes

Make Use of the Format

  • Cover the right side of your notes; review and answer study questions from the left using the right side as an answer key
  • Quiz yourself out loud
  • Cover the right side with blank paper; write out answers to the left column study questions


  • Look over notes frequently to keep information and questions still unanswered fresh in mind
  • Recite information from notes

Study in a Group

  • Exchange notes with others to flesh out information and understanding
  • Use notes in study groups to provide a common ground of material for reference and review
  • Rewrite notes if necessary

Turn and Talk

  • Share your notes with your partner.
    • Did you miss something?
    • Did something just click?
    • Is there something you just do not get?
    • What do you think about the topic?
  • Summarize – Using your notes, write a summary about your topic.