This year at my school, my teachers began encouraging students to take our notes in the Cornell Notes style. Cornell Notes are a specific form of note-taking developed by Walter Pauk, an education professor at Cornell University.

The system includes leaving spaces for questions on the edge of the notes page, and putting a place for reflection at the bottom.

Of course, Cornell notes are not the only way to take notes, and some students have some complaints about efficiency, but there is a lot of scientific proof that Cornell notes are good for remembering information better, improving concentration and remembering material on tests.

I was very skeptical at first because I believed Cornell notes were less efficient than how I previously took notes. After using the Cornell method for a few months, however, I can say that they definitely have improved my ability to take good notes.

Getting organized

My favorite part about Cornell notes is the space you leave on the side of the paper for review questions. If you set up your paper in Cornell notes style, you will have a section about two inches wide on the left of your paper for practice test questions.

Sometimes teachers give these questions out, but more often you think about the main idea of the lesson being taught. You ask yourself questions about that main idea or key points in the lesson. Also, specific definitions can be written down if you think they will be questions on a test.

It is also important to answer the questions correctly so you can study them. Along with questions in the left section, you can also put in links to your life, like where you would use the information in real life. Connecting information to your life has been shown to help you remember the lessons better.

The right-hand side of Cornell notes is for listing the things taught in lessons. Making the information in bullet points helps you to look over notes better and makes them more organized.

Focus on writing the main ideas first, then include supporting details and definitions. Using abbreviations for words is encouraged to save space and time while writing.

Also, try not to just write down what the teacher says. Paraphrasing and putting your own ideas in notes is another way to remember the material better.

Repetition rules

Color-coding notes can also help your eyes go to small details on a page. You can highlight important names or vocab so you find them easier while studying. Colors can break up the monotony of pages of text of the same color.

At the end of your notes, you can make a summary of the notes taken that day; look over the notes and pick up key ideas that you think will be on a test. This may seem repetitive, but memories need repetition to stay in your mind. The summary should be around five lines and you can do it the night after taking the notes or any time you have a few minutes to spare.

A common complaint with Cornell notes is that the left section and summary at the end waste space and time. In my experience, this strategy doesn’t waste a lot of space if you condense your writing and write on the backs and fronts of your papers. As for wasting time, it is a good idea in general to look over your notes after you take them at least once, so writing a bit while looking them over should be no trouble.

While Cornell Notes are not for everyone or necessary in all cases, they are a good strategy to improve your note-taking. If you give the method a try, you may find it helps you prepare for tests better and helps you remember information by using repetition.

Corinna Healey is a sophomore at the DaVinci Academy. Email her at

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