Cornell Notes: The Most Efficient Way to Make Revision Notes

Cornell Notes

Making notes can be a really daunting task. Some people spend hours highlighting an entire page of a revision guide or rewriting it word for word! Cornell notes is a proven method to make clear, efficient notes.

The Cornell method for taking notes was developed by Walter Pauk in the 1950’s and is named after Cornell university (where Walter Pauk worked).

The method means that you reflect on the topic and actively summarise your notes. It’s really effective when you have to apply the knowledge you are learning – an essential skill for exams!

Here’s our step-by-step guide:

Split Your Page Up

You need four sections:

  • 1 or 2 lines at the top;
  • about 3 or 4 lines at the bottom;
  • about 5 to 7cm on the left-hand side;
  • the remaining space on the right.

If this is confusing, have a look at our Cornell templates. They are even colour coded to help you organise your notes!

Cornell notes - template

Add a Title!

This should include everything that will help you organise your notes. Remember, you need to be able to find the notes to review them closer to the exam.

Make sure you include the topic and subject. You might also want to include what exam the notes are for and the date of the exam.

Complete Your Main Notes

You might take these from a video you’re watching, a poem you need to know, or a revision guide you are reading.

Don’t write full sentences word for word – abbreviate them to make your notes more concise. However, make sure you will understand them when you come back to read them again!

Leave space around your notes so you can come back and edit them or add to them if you want – if you are using lined paper maybe write on every other line.

This is also the place to add diagrams or tables with the information you need. Take your time over these – they will be more helpful if they are neat and accurate.

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Review the Notes

Now you’ve got some notes, we need to review them. You want to draw out the most important ideas. This isn’t just abbreviating your notes further; it’s pulling out the core of the topic.

You might want to include key dates, important names or equations. Don’t be afraid to use colour here if you think it will help.


Finally, we need to summarise the topic. This is just 1 or 2 sentences that give a very quick overview of the topic.

Imagine the first few lines you have on a Wikipedia page – it’s just enough information to tell you if you are in the right place. That’s the aim here! How would you describe what you’ve learnt to a friend or teacher? That is what you want to write down here.

How to Use Your Notes

While writing the notes themselves is incredibly helpful, you’ve also written a very short revision guide that you can come back to. Focus your study on the summary and the left-hand side and look to the right-hand side if you need more information.

Cornell notes - preview of Beyond template
This is the ‘before’ shot, now it’s time for you to work on the ‘after’ shot!

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