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The Cornell Note-Taking System

The Cornell Note-Taking System

This system was developed in the 1950s as part of a university preparatory course.

There are four stages to taking notes:

  1. Note taking
  2. Note making
  3. Note interacting
  4. Note reflecting

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Learning the right way

The goal of effective note-taking is to remember what you learned.

  • It involves active learning, meaning the student is responsible for doing things with the material, such as reading, writing, discussing, and solving problems.
  • Students should also think about how they are learning it. What is difficult? How can you improve learning about this topic? How did your views change about this topic?
  • Students will forget less if they engage with their notes within 24 hours, then read their notes the next day, and again within a week.

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The Note Making Stage

The Note Making Stage

  • Review and revise the note contents.
  • Write questions in the left-hand column opposite the answer on the right-hand side.
  • Connect key ideas using colour or symbols
  • Exchange ideas with other students to see if you understand the material thoroughly.

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The Note Interacting Stage

  • Write a summary at the bottom of the page that addresses the key idea and answer the questions from the left margin.
  • Build into your study timetable regular times to revise your notes for each subject.
  • Before a test, use the questions as prompts and answer without looking at the information on the right-hand side.

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The Note Taking Stage

Always draw up the page for notes the same way.

  • At the top, write the topic/key learning objective.
  • Divide the page into two columns. The first column should be one-third of the page. It is used for questions and notes. The second column is for notes from the lecture, textbook, video, etc.
  • Take notes in your own words.
  • Leave spaces and lines between main ideas to add information.
  • Develop your own abbreviations and symbols to save time.
  • Write in phrases, not full sentences.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Highlight and colour key ideas.

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How to remember information

We tend to lose almost 40% of new information within one day of reading or hearing it, even if we write it down.

However, when we take notes effectively, we can retain and retrieve almost 100% of the knowledge we obtained.

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The Note Reflecting Stage

  • Get a peer, tutor or teacher to give you written feedback on your initial learning phase.
  • Address one area of the feedback at a time.
  • Before exams and tests, reflect over the entire unit.

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