Cornell System

The Cornell Note Taking System, developed at Cornell University, is based on strategies researchers and successful students have found to improve understanding and performance. Consider the following:

  • Unless lecture notes are reviewed, most people forget up to 80 percent of what they heard in class within 24 hours.
  • Active processing of information (analyzing, summarizing, paraphrasing, reciting) increases understanding and ability to recall and apply information.
  • Students who anticipate possible test questions and practice answering them perform better on tests than students who do not.
  • Taking time to review and study notes on a regular basis is one of the most efficient study skill improvements a student can make.



  • Loose-leaf notebook & hole punch: allows you to insert handouts and supplementary notes.
  • Paper: paper used for the Cornell System has 2 ½ or 3 inch left margin. Many students create their own Cornell-style paper with a ruler and a pen. You can also purchase special paper called summary paper which is set up for taking notes with the Cornell System.

In Class:

Take all notes to the right of the margin line.

After Class (within 24 hours):

Review your notes, filling in blanks and making them as complete, legible, and accurate as possible.

  1. Go back over your notes and identify key ideas and terms.
  2. On the  left side of the margin, write down key words or ideas opposite the complete notes. You can also write questions on the left side that can be answered by the information on the right side.
  3. Cover up the notes on the right side of the paper with another sheet of paper. Look at your key words or questions on the left side and attempt to recite (out loud if possible) the related information in your notes.
  4. Check to see if you have recited all of the information correctly. If you missed anything, study it until you feel comfortable with it and try to recite the information again. Continue this process until you are completely familiar with the material.

Weekly, throughout the semester:

Set up a time to review all notes for the week, e.g. 30 minutes every Sunday afternoon. By covering up your notes and reciting key words and questions you will reinforce the information and prepare yourself for exams.