Cornell notes system: Learn how this note-taking system helps you become efficient.

Cornell notes system promotes taking short notes instead of writing long sentences. It saves you time while noting things down and during revision.

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You must note all the important information, whether attending a lecture, a workshop, or a meeting. There are 2 ways of noting things down where. One randomly notes things, while the other is the Cornell notes system. You are losing out on essential information if you don’t recognize the distinction between the two, and failing to write down the key details will cost you

in the long run.

The Cornell notes system, how it works, and how it affects your notes are all covered in this article.

Why is it important to take notes by hand?

Different people have different approaches when it comes to taking notes. The most common way of taking notes is by taking photographs of the content. Some people still prefer the old-school method of taking notes by writing everything down with their hands. This old technique of taking notes is more efficient since you tend to learn more this way.

Recalling, revising, and organizing these notes is also beneficial. On the other hand, when you take pictures, the notes are often misplaced or skipped when reviewing. Due to all these reasons, taking notes by hand is important.

What is the Cornell notes system?

This system of taking notes dates to the 1950s when a professor at Cornell University, Walter Pauk, devised this note-taking method. This note-taking method divides the page into 4 different sections, each with a different purpose. Moreover, the way you note things down in this method also impacts the information you can recall with these notes.

The visual presentation of information is a strength of this note-taking method; the special thing is that it focuses on keeping your notes short. Another strength of this note-taking method is that you note down the information using keywords. So, by keeping the notes short, you can recall the outline behind every expression, which makes note-taking and recalling easier.

How to take notes with the Cornell notes system?

To use this note-taking method, you must follow a specific process. Below are the steps for taking notes with the Cornell system:

1. Dividing the page

Taking notes with this unique system starts with dividing the page into 4 different sections. You leave the top to write the title of the notes. Similarly, you leave the bottom 5-7 lines for the summary section. The middle section of your page will be divided into a vertical lines, with the left line only having 30% of the total portion.

2. Noting down your main ideas and key thoughts

Now you need to move to the notes section of the page and start noting things down. Every idea you note must only contain 5 to 10 words maximum. It is the ideal length of sentences in this note-taking system. You may use symbols or abbreviations in this column to simplify the process.

3. Listing the keywords and questions

Move to the left section of your page and start noting down questions or keywords according to your notes. This section must be designed so you can recall the whole thing by looking at those keywords and questions. It is effective in revising since you can quiz yourself this way.

4. Recite what you noted.

Once you are done with the notes and questions, cover up the note side of the page and try to speak the ideas or information that comes into your mind by reading questions of keywords. Doing so will improve your grip on the information you just noted.

5. Reflect on the noted material.

It is an optional step, but if you reflect on the material, your grip on that information will get even more firm. To reflect, you need to ask yourself about the significance, application, principles, and back story of every piece of information you noted. If you want, you can further research each of these points regarding that information. It may help you review the notes.

6. Writing the summary of your notes

Lastly, you need to write down the summary of everything you noted above. The summary must be ample to explain everything while being to the point according to the concepts behind your notes. It will play a huge part in revising the whole page in one go, which may save a lot of your time.

What makes the Cornell notes system better than others

While you can take notes randomly, some advantages of the Cornell system make it better than others. The top 3 factors that make this note-taking system better than others are listed below.

1. Notes focused on ideas.

Since these notes only contain short sentences and keywords, you must stay focused while writing them. This way of taking notes ensures that you only note down the main idea instead of adding useless and misleading information. Hence, learning and revising through these notes becomes easier.

2. Better understanding with a summary

Usually, people don’t note down the summary of their notes. When you take notes this way, writing a summary is essential. So, while revising them, if you don’t remember or understand anything, looking at the summary will make everything clear. That way, its applications in project management, revising your course contents, and other things become efficient.

3. Revision is made easier than ever through the organization

The unique way of visually presenting this information makes revision very easy. It is because the whole information is organized well, and you have all the information sorted out. So, the organization will make things easy for you, whether you need to find something specific or go through the whole thing.

How to improve your efficiency when using the Cornell notes system?

Knowing the process only will not help when you need to take notes. So, here are some tips that can help you improve your efficiency while taking notes with the Cornell system.

1. Write questions to quiz yourself.

The questions that you write in the left column are very important. Write them so you can quiz yourself with everything you note in the right column using these questions. It will make recalling effective, and revision will also improve this way.

2. Always write the summary.

Never skip the summary section in your notes. Sometimes you cannot note the whole thing on one page, so you take it to the next page. Even in such cases, you must write a summary of everything on that page. Summary plays a huge part when you need to revise the information.

3. Review the information before finalizing.

No matter how focused you are, you will always see room for improvement when noting the information. Once you note down all the ideas, questions, and summaries, read them again. This review will help you find out the missing or unclear information. Afterward, you can edit your notes to make them even better.

What are the drawbacks of randomly taking notes?

Randomly taking notes instead of the Cornell system has certain drawbacks, and below are the most important ones that can worsen your experience.

1. Those notes are unorganized, which makes revision difficult

Randomly taking notes anywhere means that you can never organize everything you note down. It brings several problems, including difficult revision, since you don’t have everything sorted.

2. You can easily lose notes since you don’t set any standards

The Cornell notes system sets standards for taking notes, starting with noting in an organized manner. When you don’t have any standards, you note things down in hard or soft form at different places. That way, losing certain notes is easy, which creates a void when revising.

3. Longer sentences can be confusing at times.

Usually, people tend to note longer sentences. That way, a lot of misleading and confusing information takes your focus away from the main content. So, you spend more time noting and revising.

4. The information in such notes can be missing, incomplete, or misleading

You may skip some important information if you do not review your notes before finalizing them. That can make your notes misleading and even incomplete. Such notes make revision difficult instead of helpful.


The main goal of the Cornell notes system is to maintain focus on the information in both writing and presentation. It helps you quickly take notes and makes absorbing information quicker and easier. Hence, you get an effective learning experience. Learning and revising are significantly easier since the information is presented very well.

So, if you often find your notes confusing or misleading, try this note-taking system, and you will surely find a difference. Just like this note-taking system, Gantt Chart can help you stay organized with your tasks. Instagantt is one of the best tools for designing your Gantt charts.

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