How to take Cornell notes

Why choose wikiHow?
When you see the green expert checkmark on a wikiHow article, you know that the article has received careful review by an expert. In this case, someone with an appropriate advanced degree has reviewed this article.

How to Take Cornell Notes

Four Parts:

The Cornell method of taking notes was developed by Dr. Walter Pauk of Cornell University. It is a widely used system for noting material from a lecture or reading, and for reviewing and retaining that material. Using the Cornell system can help organize your notes, actively involve you in the creation of knowledge, improve your study skills, and lead to academic success.


Preparing Your Notepaper

  1. Devote notepaper solely to your Cornell-style notes.Whether you use a notebook or loose sheets kept together in a binder, you will want to have pages set aside just for note-taking. You will divide each sheet into several sections; each section has a specific purpose.
  2. Draw a horizontal line across the bottom portion of your paper.This line should be approximately one-fourth of the way up the page, about two inches from the bottom. Later, you will use this section to summarize your notes.
  3. Draw a vertical line down the left section of your paper.This line should be approximately two and a half inches from the left edge of the page. This will be used as the section for reviewing your notes.
  4. Leave the largest section of the page as the area for taking notes from the lecture or reading.This section on the right of the page should leave you plenty of space to record important points.
  5. Use the internet to search for templates for Cornell notes if you need a shortcut.If you will be taking a lot of notes and/or want to save time, you can find blank templates for making Cornell style notes. Print blank sheets and follow the same steps for use.

Taking Notes

  1. Mark the course name, the date, and the lecture or reading topic at the top of your page.Do this consistently, and it will help you keep your notes organized and make reviewing course material much easier.
  2. Take notes in the largest section of the page.While listening to a lecture, or reading a text, take notes only in the right-hand section of the page.
    • Include any information that the professor writes on a board or shows in a slideshow.
  3. Use notes to listen or read actively.Whenever you come across an important point, make a note of it.
    • Look for signals marking important information. If an instructor says something like "the three most important implications of X are…" or "there are two basic reasons why X happened," then this is likely information that you will want to record in your notes.
    • If you are taking notes from a lecture, listen out for points that are emphasized or repeated, as these are likely important.
    • These tips hold true if you are reading a text and come across statements like these examples. Textbooks will often put key terms in bold type, for example, or restate important information in graphs or charts.
  4. Keep it simple.Think of your notes as an outline of the lecture or reading. Focus on getting just the key words and points down so that you can keep up with the lecture or reading—you will have time later to review and fill in the gaps.
    • Rather than writing out complete sentences, use bullet points, shortcuts (like “&” instead of “and”), abbreviations, and any personal note-taking symbols you have.
    • For example, instead of writing out a full sentence, such as “In 1703, Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg and ordered its first building, the Peter and Paul Fortress,” you could write simply “1703—Peter founds St. Pete & builds Peter & Paul Fort.” The shorter version will make it easier to keep up while still recording the essential information.
  5. Record general ideas, not illustrative examples.Go for the big ideas in the lecture, rather than trying to record all the examples the instructor may give to illustrate these ideas.Paraphrasing not only saves time and space, it forces you to make connections between the ideas presented and your own expression of them, which will help you remember material later.
    • For example, if your instructor says in lecture (or a book states) that: "In constructing St. Petersburg, Peter hired engineers, architects, shipbuilders, and other workers from many European countries. The immigration of these intellectuals and skilled workers gave St. Petersburg a cosmopolitan atmosphere, accomplishing part of Peter's goal to make the Russian city a 'window on the West'," don't try to copy that word-for-word!
    • Paraphrase the information, for example: "Peter hired engineers, architects, shipbuilders, etc. from all over Europe -- his plan: St. Pete='window on the West.'"
  6. Leave a space, draw a line, or start a new page when you come to a new topic.This will help you to mentally organize the material. It will also help you to focus on studying different parts whenever you need to.
  7. Make a note of any questions that arise while you are listening or reading.If there is something you do not understand, or want to know more about, jot this down in your notes. These questions help clarify what you are absorbing, and will be useful for studying later.
    • For example, if you were taking notes on the history of St. Petersburg, as in the examples above, you might make a note "Why couldn't Peter the Great hire Russian engineers?"
  8. Edit your notes as soon as possible.If there are any parts of your notes that are hard to read or don't seem to make sense, fix them while the material is still fresh in your mind.

Reviewing and Expanding Your Notes

  1. Summarize key points.As soon as possible after the lecture or reading, pull out the main ideas or key facts from the right-hand section. Writeverycondensed versions in the left hand column -- go for key words or short phrases that communicate the most important information or concepts. Reviewing course material within a day or so of the lecture or reading greatly improves retention.
    • Underlining main ideas in the right-hand column may help you identify them. You can also try highlighting or color-coding, if you're a very visual learner.
    • Cross out unimportant information. Part of the beauty of this system is that it will teach you how to identify the crucial information and discard what is unnecessary. Practice identifying information that you are less likely to need.
  2. Write potential questions in the left column.Working from your notes on the right, think about questions that might appear on an exam, and write these on the left. Later on, these can be used as a study tool.
    • For example, if in the right hand section, you have written the note "1703--Peter founds St. Pete & builds Peter & Paul Fort," then in the left hand section, you could write the question "Why was Peter & Paul fortress 1st building in St. Pete?"
    • You can write higher level questions that are not answered in the notes, like "Why did...?," or "Predict what would happen if...?," or "What were the implications of...?" (e.g., "What impact did the change in capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg have on the Russian Empire?). These can deepen your learning of the material.
  3. Summarize the main ideas in the bottom section of the page.This helps to clarify all of the information you have recorded. Putting the gist of the material in your own words is a good way to check your comprehension. If you can summarize the page of notes, it means you are well on your way to understanding the material. You might ask yourself, "How would I explain this information to someone else?"
    • Often, an instructor will begin a class session by giving an overview of that day's material, e.g.: "Today, we will discuss A, B, and C" Similarly, textbook sections often include introductions that summarize the main points. You can use such overviews as a guide for taking notes, and think of them as a version of the summary that you will write at the bottom of your page of notes. Include any additional details that seem important to you or that you think you need to pay special attention to when studying.
    • Just a few sentences is usually fine for the summary of a page. Include any important formulas, equations, diagrams, etc. in the summary section, if appropriate.
    • If you have trouble summarizing any part of the material, use your notes to identify where you should take a further look or ask your instructor for more information.

Using Your Notes to Study

  1. Read your notes.Concentrate on the left-hand column and summary at the bottom. These contain the most important points you will need for your assignment or exam.
    • You can underline or highlight the most important parts as you review, if you prefer.
  2. Use your notes to test your knowledge.Cover the right side of the page (the note-taking column) with your hand or another sheet of paper. Quiz yourself by giving answers to the potential questions that you included in the left column. Then uncover the right side and check your comprehension.
    • You can also ask a friend to quiz you on your notes using the left column, and you can do the same for them.
  3. Review your notes as often as possible.Reviewing frequently over a longer period of time, rather than cramming before a test, will greatly increase your retention and deepen your understanding of course material.With your effective notes made using the Cornell system, you will be able to study efficiently and with minimal stress.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Do I need to summarize my notes after every reading?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Ideally, yes, because it will be helpful to not have to go through everything at the last minute before your exam, you'll have the summaries instead.
  • Question
    What happens if I run out of space?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could turn the page and write on the back, or you could start another page with the same titles and "continued" or number the pages and staple them together!
  • Question
    If I'm taking notes for a full chapter and take up more than one page, should I write a summary at the bottom of every page of notes or at the bottom of the very last page?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It depends on whether each page is a separate topic, and if it they are, then do a summary for each page. Otherwise, summarize at the beginning or end of the chapters.
  • Question
    Can I write two topics in the title section?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, you are better off starting a new note, but it is acceptable in a pinch.
  • Question
    What type of questions do I jot down?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Write down questions about the main topic.
  • Question
    How do I take Cornell notes for math?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The same way. In the left hand column, you could write down problems for you to solve using the methods that you covered in that course.
  • Question
    Where do I answer the questions from the left hand corner if I run out of space?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could possibly number the questions (or write them out) at the back of the page and answer them there.
  • Question
    Is Cornell method of note taking the most effective? Are there any others?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Cornell Notes are better, especially when you want to learn easier and about a particular topic.
  • Question
    How can I do two full pages of Cornell notes if the section is short?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Include diagrams or drawings to further increase your understanding of the topic.
  • Question
    Do I need large paper or short paper for Cornell note taking?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It doesn't matter. It just needs to be large enough to fit all three sections comfortably. If you write small or don't have much to write down, you might be fine with smaller paper; if you have a lot of information or you like space to draw, you need larger paper.
Unanswered Questions
  • What type of graphic organizer should I use at the bottom?
  • How do I memorize and make my Cornell notes attractive?
Ask a Question
200 characters left
Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

Quick Summary

To take Cornell notes, start by dividing your paper into 3 sections, making 1 section bigger than the other 2. Then, when you're taking notes in class, write your notes in the largest section. Try not to write down everything your teacher is saying, and instead focus on big-picture ideas. When you're finished taking notes, read over them and summarize the main ideas in one of the smaller sections. Then, in the remaining section, write down possible questions that might show up on a test.

Did this summary help you?
  • The Cornell system of taking notes works best for courses that are organized around clearly-defined topics, and presented in a sequential or otherwise logical order. If your course shifts topics or approaches frequently, you might be better off with a different kind of note taking.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations


Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: |

In other languages:

Español: , Italiano: , Português: , Русский: , Deutsch: , Français: , Bahasa Indonesia: , Nederlands: , العربية: , ไทย: 

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 576,541 times.
Did this article help you?
Expert Review By:
Ph.D. in English
Views: 576,541
of readers found this articlehelpful.
3 votes - 100%
Click a star to add your vote
100% of people told us that this article helped them.

Jamie S.

Sep 26

"I usually have a hard time writing down the important stuff in my notes, and I tend to just write down everything Ihear or read. This helped me to write notes more efficiently and to separate the important from the unimportant. "
Rated this article:

Martin Vella

Sep 26

"To help my students find a better platform for their notes in order to be more efficient in their studies. Thankyou for your excellent presentation and explanation of this note-taking system."

Izzy F.

Aug 9

"Thank you, this method helped my friend and me so much when we had to take notes about Henry the Eighth."
Rated this article:

Kyrie Irving

May 2

"It helped me learn about Cornell notes!"

Skye Zeng

Jul 15, 2019

"It was in a lecture when I first knew about Cornell Notes. The speaker introduced us this new way of taking notesand I was atrracted. This article is useful for us to learn how to take Cornell Notes."

Rosca Lorena

Jul 21, 2019

"I think that this is a very good way to take notes. In the classroom the teachers are talking very fast, and thisis an easier way to take notes. I'll try it and I'm sure that it's very good."

Linda Lesto

Aug 16, 2019

"This was a great tutorial. I used it in a PowerPoint as a Cornell Notes Review for my high school students.Well-written, great illustrations, with clear and concise instructions."

Iris Balatbat

Jul 30, 2019

"I took Cornell notes, which helped me in my exams and I just realized it just this year in my 2nd year of middleschool. I took the first rank because of this. "
Rated this article:


Apr 4, 2019

"I love using Cornell method of note taking. It enables me to give "white-spaces" between sentences, andit makes my notes orderly and legible to revise."
Rated this article:

Harshit Srivastava

Sep 7, 2019

"What a great idea of taking notes. The best part of this is writing questions, which makes the notes moreeffective."


Jul 17, 2019

"Might be helpful for some of my classes. All the steps are pretty clear and simple. Thanks."

Leilani Judson

Jan 30, 2019

"wikiHow helps me so much. I get A's on a lot of things using wikiHow, thank y'all so much!"

Qusay Alfaris

Jul 17, 2019

"It is great material helping me organize my thinking and make great use of what I read."

Emma Baldwin

Mar 10, 2019

"It helped me by showing what each step was and how to do that step with a visual."


Dec 27, 2019

"It was really good! I will totally try this for more effective study sessions!"

Tanya Thies

Jan 22, 2019

"Great website, nice to take time off a project and do some mindless fun."

Emily Richte

Nov 18, 2019

"This helped me a lot because I have no idea on how to take notes!!"

Kris Rojas

Apr 3, 2019

"Used these instructions for ELA homework. Helped out a lot! "
Rated this article:

Gabriella Xie

Oct 12, 2019

"Left part, besides the main idea, give your own question."

Natasha Frenando

Mar 20, 2019

"It helped me to summarize all the notes before the exam."
Rated this article:

Desirae Sanchez

Jul 13, 2019

"This helped me understand the proper way to take notes."

Elaine Valdez

May 5, 2019

"It's awesome because it's much easier to take notes."

Brian Vargus

Jul 28, 2019

"Thanks for reminding me how to to Cornell notes."

Sebastian Huerta

Mar 15, 2019

"Helped me a lot to see the ideas broadly."

Shreya Agarwal

May 26, 2019

"It is nice, now I can write my own notes!"

Mina Leon

Sep 14, 2019

"The steps and pictures helped a lot."

Naresh Aadhave

Jul 17, 2019

"It helped me very much.

Video: How I Take Notes | Cornell Notes || revisign

How to Take Cornell Notes
How to Take Cornell Notes images

2019 year
2019 year - How to Take Cornell Notes pictures

How to Take Cornell Notes forecast
How to Take Cornell Notes recommend photo

How to Take Cornell Notes pictures
How to Take Cornell Notes images

How to Take Cornell Notes How to Take Cornell Notes new picture
How to Take Cornell Notes new foto

pics How to Take Cornell Notes
pics How to Take Cornell Notes

Watch How to Take Cornell Notes video
Watch How to Take Cornell Notes video

Communication on this topic: How to Take Cornell Notes, how-to-take-cornell-notes/
Discussion on this topic: How to Take Cornell Notes, how-to-take-cornell-notes/ , how-to-take-cornell-notes/

Related News

Inside The Minimalist Mexico Hotel Making Waves
The Perfect Summer Dress For YourBody
70s Revive in Uterque Fall 2019 Lookbook
Jessica Chastain critica duramente la sentencia de la Manada
Usertalk: DylanBrown
Hair Chalking: We Tested Out the NewColor-Craze
How to Detox Your Skin
How to Prepare for a CT Scan
6 Reasons You Havent Been Able To Get Rid Of Your Belly Fat
You Can Now Rent Aaron Pauls Luxury Home On Airbnb
21st Birthday Party Ideas
6 Best OTC Remedies For Diarrhea—And You Can Buy Them Online

Date: 15.12.2018, 01:03 / Views: 55541