5 Note-Taking Methods For College Students That Truly Work

If you dread taking notes in class because you know you’ll never make sense of your frantic scrawls later on, this article is for you. 

Taking notes is not just an excellent prophylactic against sleeping in front of your teacher. It’s also a tried and true way to make friends and be the smart yet popular student whose school notes everyone wants to borrow. It can propel you to the top, helping you achieve an effective study session or, if you’re a teacher, boost success for students.

On a more serious note, knowing how to take notes effectively and efficiently will not only improve your retention rates in school but make you a much smarter learner for life. It is likely that you will have access to transcription software or call recording software at work, but you will have to learn manual note-taking in the classroom. Pair these note-taking methods with NoteLedge, and you’ll smash every learning curve thrown at you!

Cornell Notes

Cornell Note-Taking System is coined by Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University in the 1950s. It is one of the most common note-taking methods taught in schools and is one of the science-backed study techniques that actually work. The Cornell note-taking method categorizes the notes into 3 sections.

Most students tend to like using lined Cornell sheets or dotted grid Cornell notebooks to easily section their notes. There are also many Cornell note-taking templates available online. On the other hand, you can also use a blank Cornell sheet to take your notes.

  • Note-Taking Column: The Cornell Note methodology starts off with sectioning off the different parts of your paper. On the right, you can designate a column taking up approximately 70% of the page. Just like its name, this column is to record any study notes, teaching notes, or lecture notes in detail.
  • Cue Column: It is on the left column of the page and it is also called the “review” or “self-test” column. The section is used to extract the keywords or relevant questions after reviewing the note-taking column.
  • Summaries: This column is used to summarize the note-taking and the cue column into one or two sentences.

Because this method is very word-dense, the Cornell Note method provides an excellent level of detail, making it ideal for open-book examinations and boosting study strategies. It also doubles up as a post-lecture review or pre-examination revision tool for university students when a higher level of detail is called for to supplement flashcards and class notes.

For a detailed guide on how to take better notes with the Cornell Note Method, check out our very own built-in Cornell Notes templates. Extend your understanding beyond traditional pen and paper. With NoteLedge, you can add whole new dimensions of detail to your Cornell Notes with images, audio, and even video clips.

Having trouble keeping track of your online learning? Now you can take effective notes on NoteLedge for Windows and switch effortlessly between desktop and mobile devices as you learn on the go.    

Bullet Journals

There’s a reason why Buzzfeed and Gawker are rife with “Top 10 [X]” articles, also known as “listicles.” Lists of bulleted points make for quick, convenient reading, and an odd sense of satisfaction when you reach the end of a list.

Bullet Journal is an effective method of note-taking to manage your to-do list, jot down notes in class, or write down the central ideas of the reading. Keeping things in bullet points trains your ability to focus on the key ideas and translate them into a clear, well-organized note.

You can add gorgeous personalized Bullet Journals to your note-taking and checklist arsenals with NoteLedge. Just make sure to use different colors to sort the lists into different categories for easy identification.

For more ideas on how to make your Bullet Journals stand out from the rest with NoteLedge, be sure to check out our very own Bullet Journal guide in the link above.

Whether it’s different bullets for separate categories or color-coding for prioritization, NoteLedge lets you do it all!

Pro Tips: You can easily track your routine with a bullet journal habit tracker. 

Mind Maps

Mind mapping, a technique popularized in the ’70s by Tony Buzan, allows you to develop not just a broad perspective of your field, but brainstorming skills as well. These mind maps let you visualize links between disparate ideas – an ability that forms the bedrock of most innovation.

If you are a visual learner, the Mind Mapping method might be perfect for you! Using creative tools like NoteLedge, you can create a virtually limitless — and very colorful — mind map record of all stages in your projects, brainstorming sessions, and thesis development. You can also boost your study skills by mapping out everything about a certain concept. This is a must-have study method for any design-focused course or long-term project that needs evaluation at every stage. With the freedom to add handwritten notes and simple drawings, it’s easy to organize your thought process as your ideas flow.

You can also share your NoteLedge maps with group members, assigning each one a different color code for comments. This makes it easy to identify freeloaders in project-work teams, making NoteLedge the ideal project notes app for both students and educators.

Charting Method 

Charting method using Noteledge

When it comes to making comparisons, nothing beats the Charting Method. Charting is one of those methods for students that guarantees success. If you have checked out spec comparisons for phone models, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Compare and contrast questions looking at differences and similarities occur in almost every subject, so make sure you add Charting to your note-taking toolkit. Next time your lecturer says, “The difference between X and Y is…” that’s your cue to start drawing columns in NoteLedge!

A Wild Comparison appears! Charting Method is super effective!

Smart Learning

all type of notes

Ultimately, note-taking favors the path of least resistance. If you struggle to memorize the many arcane symbols and abbreviations you’ve invented to take “smarter notes,” you are siphoning off precious time and energy from your core subjects. Keep your notation simple, and NoteLedge takes care of the rest.

In fact, it’s the best way to take care of the new wave in education everyone talks about but has NO IDEA how to implement.

That’s right, we’re talking about flipped classrooms here! If you’re struggling to turn your traditional lecture-based class into the truly collaborative learning machine that it should be, then struggle no more. You will no longer have to read off of lecture slides or have your students sit through a long video lecture. NoteLedge is available on iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows. The app allows you to work across devices with cloud services. Download NoteLedge for free to try out these note-taking methods for yourself!


Available on iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows.


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