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How to remember what you read?

How often do you read a book and find yourself forgetting many of the key points? If I picked up a random novel or textbook from your bookshelf that you’ve just read, could you accurately describe the main takeaways? If you can’t, you’re not alone. A lot of people admit to not remembering most of what they read, no matter how much they enjoyed the text.

Whether it is school textbooks, magazines, or regular books, people still read, but don’t read well. For many, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remember as much as they should. Students, for example, may have to read something several times before they understand and remember what they read.

For all those who missed out on good reading skills to retain information, it is not too late. We’ve scoured our brains for the best study hacks to help you remember what you read and ultimately do better in your exams!

Ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?”

Before you start reading, you should have a defined purpose. Whether it’s setting a time limit or target of reading a certain number of pages, you need to check continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled. This trick helps you stay on the task at hand, focus on the most relevant parts of the text, and rehearse continuously. Are you reading a chapter that is too difficult to grasp or is it something to pass the time, just because your teacher asked you to? Keep these questions in mind.

Skim through first

Going through the entire content quickly includes putting an emphasis on the headings, pictures, graphs, tables, and key paragraphs. Once you know what looks important, you can slow down and read carefully only the parts that contribute to fulfilling the reading purpose. Skimming first polishes the memory and makes the concepts easier to remember when you read it the second time.

Write! Take notes

Don’t ever read a chapter without a pencil in hand. Underline the key sentences you find confusing, interesting, or hard. Draw lines and diagrams along the side of important paragraphs to remember more of what you learn. No matter what your personal learning style is, the act of writing helps you break down the barriers between learning and memory, and turn information into knowledge. This will help you tremendously to remember what you read.

Leverage your visual memory

A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it can certainly capture the essence of dozens of words. Students can use to good effect the practice of making mental images of the meaning of the text. All you need to do is— spot the keywords and think of the associated mental images. Alternatively, pictures can be remembered better if they are clustered into similar groups or when they are chained together to tell a story.

Read out loud

Well, this may make you look a little crazy, but give it a go! You will be surprised how much more you can remember when you’ve said it out loud. The reason? The sentences you speak (or even whisper) out loud become unique to your brain, which remembers producing and hearing the items. Warning: Don’t try this in a crowded library or classroom!

Revise soon after reading is finished

At the end of each reading session or subject, rehearse what you learned right away. You need to avoid distractions and multi-tasking because they interfere with the consolidation processes that enable longer-term memory. It could be done in two ways.

  1. How about trying to teach it to someone else? It could be your classmates. But if you can’t get anyone to listen to you explain the Pythagorean Theorem, why not teach a class of stuffed animals?
  2. Think about and rehearse what you read at least twice later that day. Keep asking yourself questions about the content and check if you can answer them. Rehearse the mental pictures also for the first few days after reading.

Just remember that your brain needs regular breaks to absorb more information. So, take a short break after 45-50 minutes of studying as your focus and concentration becomes impaired after this period. Lastly, get adequate sleep to consolidate and retain memories faster.

These are some practical ways that you can use when trying to remember what you read. Whichever techniques you apply, always be aware of the purpose of your reading to improve the overall effectiveness.

Have you tried any of these methods for improving your memory? What works the best for you? Share your best tips and strategies below!

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