Do you sweat over your lecture notes after class wondering what they mean? Do ideas get lost in a constellation of bullet points? Then take note of a great way to…well, take notes.

Cornell Notes is a note-taking format that divides a piece of paper up into three memory-inducing sections. Draw a horizontal line about four inches from the bottom of the page. Then draw a vertical line about two inches from the left margin, running from the top down to the horizontal line.

When class begins, start jotting in the notes section, the fat column on the right. It’s wide enough for short sentences, but you’re advised to use sentence fragments or shorthand to save space. Eliminate as many words as you can without delving into gibberish. Leave space to add to ideas if necessary.

After class, put off meeting your buddies at the coffee shop for five minutes while you write the key concepts from each page of notes in the skinny, left-hand keyword column. For each main idea, write a word, a question, a picture, whatever works as a concise memory-jogger.

Almost done. Fill in the bottom section with a summary of all the important stuff on each page for easy reference. Voila! You’ve got a handy study guide. Stack the pages on top of one another so only the keyword columns show, and you’ve got flashcards to boot.

You can download free, printable PDF forms, and Word templates preformatted for Cornell Notes. They make a great gift for your glassy-eyed students in your final class period. Their newfound alertness from not poring over their disorganized hen scratch in the wee hours will be thanks enough for you. –BILL FERRIS

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