This page steps through the Cornell Study Method. If used regularly it can help you prepare for and pass examinations with high grades. Originally used by medical students at Cornell University it is now a method widely used by students worldwide.

Cornell Study Method | Lecture Notes

Start by dividing a standard notepad page into four sections with three lines as shown in the template image below

cornell notes template

The right column is roughly twice as wide as the left column. The top and bottom sections are about 2 cm high. The colours on the image are simply to clarify which column is being referred to.

Before a lecture, seminar, or tutorial prepare 2-3 pages in a notepad and fill with information such as the course number, the lecture title, and the date. This information is useful if you have several lectures a day and you want to file your notes in an organsied manner at the end of the day.

College and university students will collect several pages of notes from various lectures every day during a semester/term, so having them neatly organised in a ring binder with coloured subject divides will help you to study without having to work through a heap of disorganised papers stuffed in a shoe box!

Lectures

During a lectures or research activity write short notes, sketch diagrams, and other information in the right column (shown as green above) and allow a clear space of at least 1 cm above and below each point you record. You may need to add new information as you work with your notes and think of new question tabs so that space is for those thoughts.

Questions and Answers

At the end of each day recall what was said during the college lecture, or ideas from your research, and fill out the left-side of the template (yellow) with short test questions, or a memory prompt. What you write should be simple but directly related to the points you have recorded in the right-side column (green).

The question/phrase on the left-side (yellow) of your notes template is the memory cue for the answer which is the memory point you have written on the right-side (green) of the template. Make the right-side information stand out visually with small sketches, symbols, or colours.

Keep the question/phrase at the same level on the page as the information it refers to and keep the left hand side question/phrase brief.

Standard template

The basic template for the Cornell notes method is; left-side column has the questions, right-side column has the answers. With that basic concept clear it should be easy to apply the Cornell study method to all lectures, seminars, tutorials, and textbook reading.

Updating

As your study course progresses you will have many new ideas and new notes gained from lectures and reading. When that happens it's time to use your own words to make completely new summary notes that combine the original notes with all the additional reading and study information that you have gained since the first notes were written.

Trash the original notes page when you finish writing each new updated version which will contain new keyword questions, and new notes added from lectures, research reading, seminars, and tutorials.

Updating Notes is a Process

By reflecting and re-arranging your study information in this manner you keep your notes relevant to your current understanding of course material. Do this often and you will strengthen your long-term memory of key points which makes college exams easy to pass. You will soon discover that exams are enjoyable and an extension of your learning as you apply your growing body of information to the exam questions.

Memorising Key Points

The method to use is;
- Cover the right side of the page
- Say aloud the questions
- Keep answers covered. Say the response
- Repeat for all keywords/questions
- Uncover answers
- Revise forgotten points

Recite and recall your college study notes daily until all points are memorized. After that do recitation twice-weekly, or as often as necessary to maintain 100% recall.

Reflection

Reflection is done when everything that you wrote at the original note taking stage is familiar and the answers to the questions in the left-side columns are fully memorized. If you get a flash of insight that's the time to write a short memory note at the page bottom in the space you provided when you drew the template lines. If you have no 'eureka' flash leave the bottom section blank.

Maintaining Your Notes

Use a box or ring-binder to categorize your Cornell Notes into 'Monthly', 'Weekly' and 'Daily' recitation. This will make the memorisation process manageable and efficient.

James Cornell image James