How to Take Effective Notes

Throughout your life- whether it be in high school, college, or in the career field- you will always need an efficient and effective way to retain the information you're learning. Maybe you need to remember key points about the Civil War for your History class, or how to properly do your job and impress your employer. Whatever it may be, there is an easy way to take notes- and easily remember what the notes were about!

When I was 14, I learned this well-known method. Ever since, I've used it to take notes effectively in almost every situation. This notetaking method is referred to as the Cornell Note Strategy. The Cornell Note Strategy revolves around 5 key ideas that help you retain all the information you learned from your notes!

Main Idea/Essential Question

Having a main idea in mind when you're taking notes will help you retain information. The main idea is easy to remember and can help bring out the main points of your notes, which in turn makes your notes easier to understand and recall. On top of that, if your notes have a main point, it is easier to review them in an organized fashion and process them afterwards.

Processing Your Notes

After you write your notes, the best thing you can do is review and process them. Processing can be highlighting, dividing your notes into sections, underlining, and so much more. Re-reading and re-organizing your notes can help you learn something you might have missed when first taking the notes. When it comes to highlighting, it has been proven that things highlighted in yellow are remembered better than things highlighted in any other colors.

Jotting Down Questions

When you're processing your notes, you should also write down any questions that pop up about notes that confuse you. This is the most important part of processing your notes! If you find the answer to your question later on in your notes, you should also make a note of that and re-organize your notes in a more logical manner. If you can't find an answer to your question in your notes, you should ask your teacher or employer for clarification! When you move on to the next step and write your summary, you can re-state all your remaining questions in the summary.

Summarizing Your Notes

Your summary wraps up your notes. You should include the main idea of your notes, the most important points, and all the questions and answers you have. You can also draw connections between those notes and notes you have from previous lectures or discussions.


When processing notes, the timeframe in which you process them can effect how you retain the information. The way most people learn is known as 10-24-3-7 method. The numbers symbolize the timing for each step of processing your notes. You should start processing 10 hours after taking the notes, then continue processing within the next 24 hours. You should then finish looking over the notes in the next 3 days, and then take another look within the next week. If you follow these steps, you'll be able to take better notes and easily remember the information you've learned!