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How to Remember What You Read

Setting Yourself Up to Read and RememberBecoming a Critical ReaderRemembering What You ReadArticle SummaryQuestions & AnswersRelated Articles

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In order to remember what you read, you need to become a critical reader. Become a critical reader by knowing your purpose for reading the material, creating mental pictures of important concepts and ideas, and by asking yourself questions as you read the material. Finally, store the information in your long-term memory bank by discussing the material with others, rewording the material in your own words, and by re-reading important concepts and ideas.


Part 1

Setting Yourself Up to Read and Remember

  1. 1

    Know what goal you hope to achieve by reading the material. Ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” or “What am I supposed to learn from reading this?” By understanding your purpose for reading the material, you will be able to stay on task and focus on the more relevant parts of the text.[1]
    • For example, if you keep in mind that you are reading the material for an exam, this will help you focus on important dates, events, and people.
  2. 2

    Become familiar with the topic. Become familiar with the topic by doing a quick Internet search. The more you understand and know about a particular topic, the more likely you will be able to make associations and remember the information better.[2]
    • For example, if you will be reading about Islam, type in “Islam” in your search engine. Then, click on an article, for example a Wikipedia article, and familiarize yourself with the basic tenets of Islam.
  3. 3

    Skim the material. Before reading the material, take note of headings, pictures, tables, blurbs, charts, and opening paragraphs. Focus on the important information that fulfills your purpose for reading the material.[3]
    • Skimming the material primes your memory, orients your thinking so you can focus on important information, and helps you formulate a bigger picture of the content, which makes it easier to remember important information.[4]
  4. 4

    Read in short segments. Reading when you cannot focus is a waste of time. Therefore, to maximize your focus, read in short segments. For example, read only a section, or read for only 10 to 15 minutes at a time. After you read the section, go over what you just read in your mind.[5]
    • Increase your reading endurance by steadily increasing the amount of time you read each day or week. For example, if you read in short segments of 10 to 15 minutes one week, read for 20 to 25 minute segments the next week.

Part 2

Becoming a Critical Reader

  1. 1

    Take notes. As you read, write down relevant information. The tactile act of writing will help you remember the information better. For example, if you are reading about Islam, write down the five tenets of Islam.[6]
    • You can also underline concepts, or write down ideas that come to your mind as you read.
  2. 2

    Highlight important concepts. Try to only highlight important and relevant information. For example, highlight just a few key words on a page. Before you highlight something, ask yourself, “Does this information fulfill my purpose for reading the material?” If the answer is no, then it is best to not highlight it.[7]

  3. 3

    Link the material to something you know. Associate new information with information you already know. By associating new information with information you already know, your brain will store the new information in your long-term memory bank.[8]
    • For example, if Thomas Jefferson was born in the same month as your mom, by linking his birthday to the birthday of someone you know, you will be able to remember the date better.
  4. 4

    Think in pictures. Creating mental pictures for the content you read will help you remember the content better than just reading the content without any mental images. Make mental pictures of important events, concepts, or people.[9]
    • For example, remember an important date, such as when a battle began, by imagining the battle in your head with the date in big letters.
    • You could also try drawing out the battle scene and writing the date of when it began and ended underneath it.
  5. 5

    Read out loud. If you are an auditory learner, try reading important material out loud. The tactile act of speaking and hearing the material will enable you to remember the material better. Particularly, read the important information you have underlined, as well as answers to questions out loud.[10]
    • You can also use word association to remember important facts. For example, create rhymes or songs to help you remember important information.[11]
  6. 6

    Ask yourself questions about the material. While reading the material, ask yourself, “How does this material fit into what I already know and do not know?” “Why did the author mention this?” “Do I understand this concept or word?” “Where is the evidence for this statement?” or, “Do I agree with the author's conclusions?”[12]
    • By asking and answering these questions, you will be able to remember relevant information much better.

Part 3

Remembering What You Read

  1. 1

    Reword what you read in your own words. After you finish reading a section, write down what you read in your own words. This will help you assess which information you remember and which information you cannot remember. Go back and re-read the information that you could not remember, or had trouble putting in your own words.

  2. 2

    Discuss the material with someone. After you read something, discuss the new information with a friend, family member, or classmate. The act of discussing the content will create new associations in your memory. It will also help you see which information you understand and can remember, and which information you do not understand and cannot remember.[13]
    • Go back and re-read the information you had trouble relating and remembering. Then, discuss the information with a friend or family member again.
  3. 3

    Re-read the material. Repetition is key to remembering any kind of information. After you read something, go back over the important concepts and ideas that you highlighted or underlined. Also, re-read the paragraph in which the concepts and ideas are embedded.[14]
    • After one or two days, go back over the content. Re-read the important concepts and ideas, and quiz yourself.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question

    If I start reading late for an exam, what advice can you give me to catch up?

    Focus on the main ideas, things you think will likely be on the test, and material you don't know as well. Skim everything else.

  • Question

    How much time should I take for a break while studying?

    Five to 15 minutes per hour is a decent time.

  • Question

    Why do I read something but forget it when I am in the exam hall?

    Exam anxiety i.e the fear of "I haven't prepared", "I might go blank when the paper comes", "I know nothing" or simply when you start to hyperventilate by seeing whats on the exam, that's when panic starts to engulf you and you start forgetting stuff. Ironically, this panic attack is not termed as "I remember nothing" but in fact it is called exam anxiety that leads to brain closure on temporary basis. To overcome it read through the entire paper and attempt the questions you know the answers of or might know because some of the information is always stored up in your subconsciousness through which you are capable of remembering at least some part of what you read!

  • Question

    I am not able to remember what I read and I get confused! What can I do?

    Perhaps you are reading too much information at a time. Slow down and read for shorter segments, for example 10 to 15 minutes. Try to visualize or put into words what you just read. Then, move on to the next section.

  • Question

    Why do I feel sleepy when I want to read books?

    You could be tired and sitting still causes your body to feel more sleepy. Try sitting in an uncomfortable place or position with good lighting, read out loud, or eat a light snack. Drink water or coffee to energize yourself.

  • Question

    Can I answer a question in an exam in my own words?

    Yes. That's what you should always try to do. You would be plagiarizing otherwise.

  • Question

    How can I calculate various problems faster?

    The faster you read, the faster the information gets pushed from your eyes to your brain, and can get cramped, and sometimes pushed to unreachable places. Try reading slower, giving your eyes and brain time to sort the information, so you can remember it faster when you need it.

  • Question

    How can I remember things?

    By reading slowly for 10-15 minutes and recapture what you have read. Take notes while reading and make your own sentences.

  • Question

    What about my reading speed as visual learner?

    Start by reading in short segments, for example 10 to 15 minutes. After you read, try to make sense of and visualize what you just read. Then, progress your reading endurance by reading in longer segments, like 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Question

    How can I read a subject quickly and remember it?

    Try to write short notes and think about what you are reading in images. And, if this doesn't help you, read out loud and ask yourself questions about the subject.

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