How you take notes during class will determine how you perform on your final exam. While there are many ways to take notes, such as general outlining, mind mapping and charting, one of the most notable ways to create your notes is by using the Cornell note-taking method.
The Cornell note-taking method was created by Walter Paulk, an education professor at Cornell University, in the 1950’s. Paulk noticed that generally students lose their retention of material at fast rates and created an approach that assisted students in reviewing early instead of cramming before exams.
Why It’s Effective:
Besides constant reviewing, the Cornell method is all about writing less to retain more. Research has found that by using the principles supported by cognitive psychology, it is beneficial to students who are required to synthesize and apply learned knowledge instead of just memorizing and regurgitating. A.K.A. it is the perfect method for law students who are applying law to fact patterns, not just memorizing it. Overall, the method helps students make connections between ideas and better apply what they were taught in class.
How to Utilize:
The Cornell method is easiest to handwrite but you could also create the format on your word processor. See the examples provided to match your preference.
- Divide the paper into three sections. To do so, draw a horizontal line 6 lines from the bottom of the page. Then draw a dark vertical line about 2 inches from the left side of the paper.
Right Side- Class Notes:
- Use the large box on the right-hand side to write notes in class. These notes should be short sentences and fragments that summarize the main points of the lecture.
- Use abbreviations when possible. For example:
And –> &
Very –> V.
Between –> B/W
Example –> Ex.
- Make sure to use bulleted lists and eliminate unnecessary words for easy skimming.
- Finally, leave space between your notes so you can go back and fill in sections later for clarity.
- Review your notes as soon as possible (at least within 24 hours) and pull out main ideas and key points.
- For example, if you’re learning about what’s considered a material breach in your Contracts course, you should have bullet points of the certain factors and then on the left-hand side write, “Factors of a Material Breach.”
- Also, write in questions that are relevant to the notes on the right. The questions should be something you’d write on the front of a flash card, so when you go back and study you could cover the notes section of your page and test yourself to see if you remember the information.
- As a rule of thumb, write down questions and keywords that would jog your memory- meaning they are tailored specifically to what you’ll remember the quickest. That way one keyword will help you recall facts when you’re studying.
Bottom of the Page- Summary:
- After you fill in the left-hand column, write a summary of the main idea in the bottom section. This is a one to two sentence concise summary of what you want to take away from the notes above.
How to Study:
Reviewing your notes early and frequently is a key to studying in law school but it’s especially important in this method. Test your recall using only the “Cues” column at first and then review the brief summaries at the bottom of each page. By being able to check how much you remember based off the “Cues” column you’ll be able to evaluate where you’re at in the review process.
The Cornell method might be a little difficult to adapt to in the beginning but it’s worth it once you catch on. If you have any questions about how to use it – feel free to ask in the comments below! Click here to download a blank PDF of the Cornell Note-Taking sheet.
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Other helpful law school tips:
- The Art of Note-Taking
- Taking Good Law School Notes
- More Reasons to Handwrite Class Notes
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades – Become a Self-Starter
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