The Cornell Method: Simply Amazing!

A practical session–By Shelley Bowers

Study time is precious, right? So it’s important to squeeze every last drop out of the minutes you’ve put aside. One way you can make this happen is to use a super efficient, highly effective, and really easy method of note taking. And guess what? We have one: The Cornell Method! In this practical session, I’ll take you through the method, step by step, so by the end, you’ll know exactly how to use it. Right, let’s get started.

First, grab a basic A4 notepad. Using a ruler and pencil, draw a horizontal line about 5cms from the bottom of the page. This is for your ‘summary,’ which we’ll talk more about later.

Next, draw a vertical line about 5cms from the left-hand side of the page, all the way down to the summary line at the bottom. This is called the ‘cue column.’ Again don’t worry about the names for now.

The biggest part, on the left of the page, is where you’ll write your notes, so we’ll call it the ‘notes column.’ Now, grab a book–you’re almost ready to start reading.

As you read, if you come across an important idea in the text, note it down in the ‘notes column.’ Do not, I repeat, do not copy the text word for word. Use your own words keep your paragraphs short–just note the general idea. Now highlight the important words or phrases in those paragraphs–use underlining, different colors, pink stars, whatever you fancy, just make them stand out. Do this as you read, don’t wait until the end. Carry on reading and we’ll talk again when you’re done.

Okay, so you’ve finished. Let’s go back and work on your notes. Now copy the words or short phrases you’ve highlighted–you’re cues–into the ‘cue column.’ Then, go to the summary section, and write two or three lines—again it must be in your own words, about what you’ve just learned. You’re finished for now, so put the notes away for 24 hours and come back tomorrow.

Now, time for the final part! Take out your notepad, cover up the ‘notes section’ and see if you can remember what you learned using the ‘cue column.’ You’ll probably be able to recite the whole lecture it’s such an effective method. It really is amazing!

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