Cornell Note Taking Method

 

This page contains information for the Cornell Method for Note Taking.

 
Notes Layout

There are four main sections to Cornell Notes. The Cornell Notes paper provided by your teacher has these sections already divided but you can make your own Cornell Notes paper by folding a blank sheet of paper.

 

 

Heading

Questions

 

Lecture notes, reading notes, video notes, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

3-4 sentence summary

 

1)       The Heading includes your name, the date, the class, and the period. It also includes a title. Make sure the title is descriptive! “Biology notes” is a poor title. “Cardiovascular System Lecture” is a better one.

2)       The right-hand column contains all the notes you take on a reading, a lecture, a video, etc. Information about how to take good notes is included below. This column is the largest section in your Cornell Notes.

3)       The left-hand column is where you will write your own questions about the notes you took. Writing good, thoughtful questions requires practice and is probably the most important part of effective Cornell Notes. When studying, you can fold the paper over so that only the questions are showing and quiz yourself. You should wait until after your notes are complete before you begin the questions column.

4)       The bottom section is for a short summary of your notes. You should write this summary once all of your notes and questions are done to see if you can identify the main ideas in your notes.

 

The Right-Hand Column: Hints for Taking Good Notes

 
Take your notes in simple outline form. This usually means that you’ll write main ideas first, then indent related ideas beneath the main ideas. For example:

  • Use a highlighter to make vocabulary words and main ideas stand out.
  • Paraphrase! This means less writing and also makes sure you think about material as you are taking the notes. Try not to copy anything down word-for-word.
  • Use abbreviations and incomplete sentences so there’s less writing (just don’t tell your English teacher!)
  • Include drawings or diagrams when appropriate
  • When your notes are complete, review them as soon as possible to make sure you didn’t miss anything and make sure you understand what you wrote.
  • If you miss something, leave space so you can go back and fill it in later.
  • If something in your notes doesn’t make sense, ask the teacher or another student for clarification.

 

The Left Hand Column: Writing Good Questions

 

The left-hand column of your Cornell Notes is for questions about the material. Once your notes are complete, you should write several questions in this column while the information is still fresh in your mind. If your teacher doesn’t give you time in class to complete the questions column, do it as soon as you can after class. Writing the questions makes you think carefully about the material and gives you an easy way to study your notes.

 

Not all questions are created equal, though! Most poorly-written questions only test your memory while better questions test how well you understand the material. In general, questions you write fall into three categories:

 

Level 1 Questions

These are “recall” questions. They test how well you remember information without really asking if you understand it. If you can memorize facts and definitions, you can answer level 1 questions. Try not to write any level 1 questions in your questions column.

 

                “What is the definition of hypotonic?”

                “Name the seven characteristics of life.”

                “List four types of organic molecules.”

 

Level 2 Questions

These are similar to level 1 questions, but they ask about relationships between ideas. To answer these questions, memorization isn’t enough: you have to think about the material as well.

 

                “Compare and contrast prokaryotes and eukaryotes.”

                “I am a singled-stranded nucleic acid containing Uracil. Am I DNA or RNA?”

                “Put these steps of cell division in the proper order…”

                “Categorize these solutions as acids, bases, or neutral…”

 

Level 3 Questions

These questions are the hardest to write and the hardest to answer, but the show the best understanding. To answer these questions you have to be able to make predictions, draw conclusions, and apply your knowledge.

 

                “Predict what would happen if I put a cell in a hypotonic solution.”

                “Modify this experiment so that it has a control group…”

                “Evaluate this meal for nutritional content…”

                “How does a frame-shift mutation change the resulting protein?”

 

Level One

Level Two

Level Three

Define…

Describe…

Identify…

List…

Name…

Recite…

Label…

Tell…

Who, when, where, etc…

Analyze…

Compare…

Contrast…

Group…

Sequence…

Explain…

Summarize…

Distinguish…

Classify…

Evaluate…

Hypothesize…

Predict…

Judge…

Modify…

What if…

 

When writing questions in your questions column, try to write level 2 and level 3 questions. When you review your notes later, fold the page over so that only the questions are showing and answer your questions aloud. If you can’t answer the question well enough, peek at your right-hand column and try again.

 

The Summary

 

You’ve taken good notes. You’ve written great level 2 and level 3 questions. Now it’s time to summarize everything you’ve learned. In the final section of your Cornell Notes, write a short (3-4 sentence) summary of the main ideas of your notes. If you’re not sure what the main ideas are, you’d better go back and review. It’s usually best to wait a day or so before writing your summary so you have time to think about the material.

 

How to Study from Your Notes

 

One of the benefits of Cornell Notes is that you will learn most of the material while you’re taking the notes, writing your questions, and summarizing the information. Another benefit is that the notes are easy to review and study.

 

  • Use the RCRC (Read, Cover, Recite, Check) method to review your notes frequently.
  • Quiz yourself. Fold your notes paper over so that only the questions column is showing. Read the question and try to answer it aloud. Never just say, “Oh I know that answer.” Check your answer in the right-hand column, then move on to the next question. If any of your answers were wrong or incomplete, go back and repeat the process.
  • Never wait until the night before a test to begin studying. Ideally, you should review your notes each day. It only takes a few minutes.

 

 

Remember, good note-taking is a skill. It takes practice and patience to develop any skill.