3 Tried-And-Tested Ways For Effective Note-taking

3 Tried-And-Tested Ways For Effective Note-taking

Students know that the art of note-taking can make all the difference in their academic journeys. Effective note-taking isn’t just about jotting down information; it’s a skill that can propel them toward academic success. In this article, we will delve into three proven and time-tested methods for taking notes that not only capture information but also enhance understanding and retention.

1. The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is a structured approach to note-taking that provides a clear framework for capturing and reviewing information. It was developed by Walter Pauk at Cornell University and is widely used for its effectiveness.

How to use the Cornell Method:

  • Divide your paper: Start by drawing a vertical line about 2.5 inches from the left edge of your paper. This creates two columns. The larger, right-hand column is for your primary notes, while the smaller, left-hand column is for cues or keywords.
  • Take notes: During a lecture or while reading, take your main notes in the right-hand column. Focus on key points, concepts, and explanations. Keep your sentences concise and use bullet points or numbers to list items.
  • Create cues: After the lecture or reading, review your notes and identify key terms or questions that summarise the content. Write these cues or keywords in the left-hand column. These cues will serve as prompts when you review your notes later.
  • Summarise: At the end of your note-taking session, write a brief summary of the main ideas or takeaways from the lecture or reading at the bottom of the page. This summary should capture the essence of the material.

Benefits of the Cornell Method:

  • Organisation: The Cornell Method provides a structured layout that makes it easy to find specific information.
  • Active engagement: Writing cues and summaries requires you to engage with the material, enhancing your understanding and retention.
  • Effective review: The cues in the left-hand column make it easy to review and test your knowledge.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a visual and creative note-taking technique that is particularly useful for capturing complex ideas, brainstorming, and making connections between concepts. We recommend this method for visual learners.

How to create a Mind Map:

  • Start with a central idea: Write your main topic or concept in the centre of the page and draw a circle or square around it.
  • Branch out: From the central idea, create branches that represent subtopics or key points related to the main topic. These branches radiate outward like a tree.
  • Add details: For each subtopic, add smaller branches or lines to include more specific information, examples, or details. Use keywords, short phrases, or simple drawings to represent ideas.
  • Connect and organise: Use lines to connect related ideas or show the hierarchy of information. Arrows can indicate cause-and-effect relationships or connections between concepts.
  • Colour and visuals: Use colours, icons, and visual elements to make your mind map visually appealing and to help differentiate between ideas.

Benefits of Mind Mapping:

  • Visual representation: Mind maps provide a clear visual representation of information and its relationships.
  • Creativity: Mind mapping allows for creativity in note-taking, making it especially helpful for brainstorming and problem-solving.
  • Easy recall: The visual nature of mind maps can aid in memory recall and understanding complex topics.

3. The Outlining Method

The outlining method is a traditional and logical way of taking notes, ideal for organising information hierarchically. It’s particularly effective when dealing with structured content or when you need to create a detailed overview.

How to use the Outlining Method:

  • Start with headings: Begin by writing the main topic or heading at the top of your page. This represents the highest level of information.
  • Indent subpoints: Under each main heading, indent to create sub points. These subpoints should provide more detailed information related to the main topic.
  • Use a consistent format: Maintain a consistent format throughout your outline. For example, use Roman numerals for main headings, uppercase letters for subpoints, and Arabic numerals for further subpoints.
  • Add details: Write notes, explanations, examples, or key information under each subpoint. Keep your writing concise and organised.
  • Hierarchy: Continue to indent further for sub-sub points or additional levels of detail as needed.

Benefits of the Outlining Method:

  • Logical structure: Outlines provide a logical and organised structure for capturing and reviewing information.
  • Clarity: The hierarchical format helps you understand the relationships between ideas and their importance.
  • Easy to expand: Outlines can be easily expanded or condensed, making them adaptable for different levels of detail.


Effective note-taking is a skill that can be honed with practice and the right techniques. Whether you prefer the structured approach of the Cornell Method, the visual creativity of mind mapping, or the logical organisation of the outlining method, choose the method that best suits your learning style and the content you’re working with.

Twig Learning Center encourages all students to discover and leverage their preferred note-taking method. When it comes to Chemistry, effective note-taking can be extremely helpful in memorising and understanding key concepts. Whichever method you use, our experienced O-Level, A-Level, and IB/IP Chemistry tutors can enhance your learning experience and develop your love for Chemistry.

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