By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

The Cornell System

Effective and Efficient Note Taking

The Cornell Note-Taking System

© Veer
Aurélio Scetta

Save time using the Cornell Note Taking System.

When you're taking notes at a meeting, conference or training class, how much information can you hope to recall? Do your notes help you easily recall the key points and actions? Or do they help very little even just a few hours after the event?

Over the years, there have been many tried and tested systems of note taking proposed for students and business people alike. The Cornell Note Taking System is a very simple yet effective system.

Originally developed for students by Walter Pauk at Cornell University, it is effective whenever you need to take notes and recall information.

The Cornell System is a great way of organizing your notes so that you can later identify the key points and actions, and recall information easily. With this system, you organize the notes as you take them; there is no need to go extra effort of rewriting your notes. So the system is both effective and efficient.

The Cornell Format

The Cornell format is very simple. Here's how to create a note-taking page:

  1. Use a full sized piece of paper for your notes. You need plenty of space so your notes don't get fragmented and disorderly.
  2. Divide the page into two portions by drawing a line 2.5 inches (5 cm) from the left margin of the page. This is the cue column. On the right of the cue column is the note-taking column. This is where you put down your notes.
  3. Two inches (4 cm) above the bottom of the page, now draw a line across the page. This is where you summarize your notes on the page.
Cue Column
← 2.5 inches →
Note Taking Column
2 inches (4 cms)                 For Summary

Using the Cornell System

Using the Cornell note taking system involves three main stages...

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