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Why the Cornell Note-Taking System is so Effective

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Nov 21, 2018

They never really taught us how to take notes in school. We just learned either by imitation or instinct to just jot down what was on the board, on the slides, or what was being said. Often even word by word. So we take down so much information, but we don’t really end up processing it. Enter the Cornell note-taking system.

This system of note-taking took off from Cornell University, hence the name. It was designed with high school and college students in mind. It’s supposed to help with processing huge amounts of info during lectures.

Key benefits? You’ll be able to organize your thoughts, take notes faster, and listen more attentively.

So let’s change your life and, possibly, your report card in five minutes. Let’s try out the Cornell note-taking system. Get off your laptop or those note-taking apps. Pull out your notebook or a sheet of paper and try this out with us!

How the Cornell note-taking system Works

To start, add a title at the top of your page. It can be the date, the name of the class, or topic of discussion. Then divide the paper into three: two columns—one narrower than the other—and about 5 to 7 lines at the bottom.

How to use the cornell note-taking system

From here on out, it’s a three-step process: record, reduce, and recap.

Record: Notes Column

The wider Notes Column on the right is where the bulk of your note-taking goes. Use bullet points and short phrases, even abbreviations. Skip lines and feel free to create headers. Make sure, though, that you only take down what’s meaningful. Don’t just jot down verbatim.

Reduce: Keywords Column

The narrower Keywords Column is where you’ll write keywords. Get the main idea, points, people, dates, or places. These should, ideally, align with the respective lines in your Notes Column. This will act as a cue section for reviewing and clarifying.

Recap: Summary Section

Now the Summary Section at the bottom is where your homework starts. At the end of the day when you review your notes, you’ll create a summary of the lecture. But you should only use what you wrote in the Keywords Column. That’s why this space is a bit smaller. It’s not supposed to be a whole highfalutin statement. Just put what you learned in 5 to 7 lines.

Why the Cornell Note-Taking System Works and Why You Should Use It, Too!

So we’ve covered the basics. Now let’s talk about why it works. For one, it’s a proven and effective way of taking notes in class. Two, it helps you review for exams without you even realizing!

One way to review is to cover the Notes and look at the Keywords. Try to see if you can define or place them. It doesn’t have to be an exact match. More or less, your answers will come out in the Summary.

The Summary Section is what sets the Cornell note-taking system apart from all other note-taking styles. You start to question the significance of some facts, and end up learning how to better take notes!

Using your own words and formulating your own strings of thought to review concepts means you’re applying what you’re learning. It’s a method that teaches you to understand rather than to memorize. That’s how university and high school students from all over the world started acing their tests when they began note-taking this way!

You can learn more about the Cornell note-taking system straight from the university that started it all. Start applying your new note-taking skills like a boss. Definitely give our College Life section on a go while you’re at it, too!

Now here’s some extra credit! Try out this system and get back to us. Or maybe suggest more Study Hacks and let us know how they go! Become a student contributor on the Edukasyon.ph blog!

Share your Study Hacks on our blog! 

 

Written By:

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Belle O. Mapa

As a child, Belle O. Mapa fell in love with books and fairytales. So she pursued a BFA in Creative Writing at the Ateneo de Manila University. Belle now lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting creative journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness. You can find her chasing productivity tips on Edukasyon PH—or geeking out at your local craft store.

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