5 Note-Taking Methods For College Students That Truly Work

Note-Taking Features

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, or create digital notes with templates.

  • 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 that records content. Just like its name, this column is to record any study notes, teaching notes, or lecture content 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 study questions after reviewing the note-taking column. Usually, you can use 30% of left margin on the paper for the cue column.
  • Summaries: This column is used to summarize the note-taking and the cue column into one or two sentences of key concepts.
Cornell Notes example

Because this method is very word-dense, the Cornell Note method provides an excellent level of detail, making it an effective strategy for open-book examinations and boosting the review mechanism. 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, and review notes after class in a more efficient way. Also, with an audio to text converter, you can convert spoken explanations into written form, improving and facilitating postclass reviews.

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 an active listening class, or write down the central ideas of the reading. Keeping things in bullet points trains your ability to focus on the key ideas with active participation in a fast-paced lecture and translate them into a clear, well-organized note.

Bulleted Notes

You can add gorgeous personalized Bullet Journals to your note-taking and checklist arsenals with NoteLedge. Make a to-do list or list the action items for your weekly planner. 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.

Bullet Journal to do list

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.


  • Organize ideas in one place
  • Sketch and take visual notes
  • Share your work with ease

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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 the central idea and the 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 to develop ideas with handwritten notes and graphics! 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. 

Mind maps example

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. Turn the abstract ideas into a mind-map with relevant content and concept mapping around key ideas. 

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 

When it comes to making comparisons, nothing beats the Charting note-taking Method. Charting is an effective technique for organizing notes and highlighting key ideas in a visually appealing way. This method involves creating a table or chart to organize class notes, making it easier to see connections and relationships between different pieces of information. The charting method is particularly useful for subjects like science, history, and economics that involve a lot of data and statistics. This method ensures that the note-taker captures accurate notes and can quickly find information later. Using the charting method, students can transform their class notes into easy-to-understand visuals, improving their understanding and retention of key concepts.

Charting note taking method

Charting is one of those methods for students that guarantees success with a well-organized system. NoteLedge takes advantage of digital notes and allows you to create table and make charting notes with ease. 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!

Outline Method 

The outline method is a popular technique used to take notes during class, in meetings, lectures, and other educational settings. This method involves creating a hierarchical structure of key ideas and core concepts, with each level of the hierarchy representing a different level of detail or importance.

Outline notes can be taken in various formats, including handwriting notes, digital notes, or even using mind maps. This method is an effective way to organize lecture details and can help to identify the most critical points, the core ideas, and the major concept in a presentation. One of the significant benefits of using the outline method is that it promotes active learning, as it requires the note-taker to actively engage with the material, organizing and summarizing it as they go. This approach can help to improve retention and understanding, making it a valuable tool for students and professionals alike to enhance the review process.

Smart Learning

Note taking methods for college students

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!

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