The Cornell Method is one of the most popular note-taking methodologies used by students and professionals alike. In its essence, the Cornell note-taking method is a system for registering, organizing, condensing, and reviewing notes.

Fonder by Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University in the 1950s, the system is excellent for active learning.

Why the CNT method?

CNT is primarily a paper-based system, and research has shown that people who hand-wrote their notes on their own showed better learning than those who typed theirs.

The Cornell method is also practical because when a learner summarizes the information shared with him in his own words, he is more likely to remember the said information better.

Cheat code ​=> Notes = Facts; Cues = Questions; Summary = What you've learned

Using the Cornell note-taking method

You can start by dividing a page into three distinct parts, as shown in the image below: notes, cues, and summary.

At the top of the page will be your title/heading, which is a cue for this page's content. So a good title would be something like "Becoming Productive at the Office" rather than "Productivity."

Once you have the heading in place, you can start with the section on the right meant for Notes. This is where you note down important concepts, ideas, personalities, graphs, etc., that the narrator/lecturer delivers.

Tip: Remember not to use long sentences when you are taking notes. Ideally, keep the length between 5-10 words.

After recording the main content from the session, we can now move to the left-hand side of the sheet titled "Cues," where we add questions, abbreviations, symbols, etc., about the session. This section is used to help you remember and organize the content learned during the session.

Finally, you have the bottom section, where you write a few lines summarizing the session in a consolidated manner. Remember to write the summary down as soon as possible while the information is fresh in your mind.

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Steps in the Cornell note-taking method

You can break down the process of the method into five distinct steps to get the most out of it. They are (chronological order):

  1. Recording: Take down the information in words or phrases that you can understand.
  2. Formulating: Come up with questions, abbreviations, and clarifications to make sense of the session.
  3. Recalling: Cover the "notes" section and recall information using the questions/abbreviations from the "cues" section.
  4. Reviewing: Look for holes in your logic or knowledge base based on your recalling exercise and fill them with information.
  5. Mapping: Identify ways to relate to the session based on your existing knowledge base or experience and summarize the session.

Things to remember

There are a few helpful guidelines you can use while implementing the Cornell note-taking method. They are:

  1. Effective notes capture just the essential ideas, but usually not everything verbatim.
  2. Symbols & Abbreviations can help you process information faster.
  3. Cues are always set up after you've taken down the notes.
  4. Use spaced repetition technique to retain information long term.
  5. Summaries should be about the big picture and not about details.

To conclude, the CNT method has been around for more than 50 years and has a lot of practitioners for a good reason. If you take notes regularly for school or work, this is worth exploring.

What are your thoughts about this note-taking method? Drop them in the comments below. If you find value in content like this, consider subscribing to Routine's podcast called "The Productive Minute" here: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, & Google Podcasts.