Why do some people seem to effortlessly remember every detail of a book they read just once, while others can’t even recall the title days after finishing it? The difference often comes down to how well you read, not how intelligent you are. Here are some tips to help you remember and better understand what you read.
Pay Attention While You Read
This seems obvious, but it’s crucial. If you’re not paying attention while you read, your brain won’t be able to process and store the information properly. Be focused so that you can make connections and see the big picture.
Active reading also means keeping an eye out for key information. As you read, underline or highlight important ideas, facts, and names. This will help you find them again easily when you need to review the material. It is especially helpful when you read something for information. If you are looking for certain facts or details like Greek god symbols – StoryboardThat is a great helper here as it’ll save you lots of time.
Remember the books you have read for class? If you just read them without taking any notes, chances are you don’t remember much about them now. But if you actively marked up your texts, chances are you can still recite major themes and events.
As you read, take breaks to summarize what you have just read in your own words. This will help you process the information and remember it later. It’s also a good way to check your understanding as you go.
Use a Reading Strategy
There are different reading strategies you can use to help you better understand and remember what you read. The SQ3R method is a good place to start. It involves the following steps:
- Survey: Skim the text quickly to get an overview of the material.
- Question: Ask yourself questions about the material. What are the author’s main points?
- Read: Read the text carefully, answering your questions as you go.
- Recite: Explain the material out loud or in writing.
- Review: Go over key information periodically to make sure you remember it.
The SQ3R method is just one example. There are other strategies you can use, such as the KWL method (what I Know, what I Want to know, and what I Learned). Find one that works best for you and stick with it.
Filter Your Reading
You don’t need to remember everything you read. As you read, try to identify the most essential information and filter out the rest. For example, if you’re reading a history book, you might want to focus on dates, names, and events. If you’re reading a science text, you might want to focus on key concepts and equations. Don’t try to remember everything verbatim. Instead, focus on the main ideas and you’ll be more likely to recall them later.
With older books or ones that have been translated, sometimes different versions are published. To get the best one, look up which version is most acclaimed. For example, when reading the classics, it’s usually best to read a version that is as close to the original as possible.
Get Some Context
If you want to remember what you read, it helps to have some context. If you’re reading a book for class, make sure you do the required readings and understand the material covered in lectures. If you’re reading for pleasure, try to learn about the author and the time period in which the book was written. The more you know about the context, the easier it will be to understand and remember what you read.
Discussions and reviews are also a great way to get context for a book. If you’re discussing a book with friends or writing a review, you’ll have to think critically about the material and distill the most important points. This will help you better understand and remember what you read.
Intelligent Skimming and Scanning
As we mentioned before, survey a text before you start reading it carefully. This will help you get an idea of what the material is about and decide if it’s worth reading. It will also help you locate specific information quickly when you need to find it later.
The difference between skimming and scanning is that with skimming, you’re trying to get a general overview of the material, while with scanning you’re looking for specific information.
Here are some tips:
- When skimming, read the introduction and conclusion first, then move on to the headings and subheadings.
- When scanning, use the table of contents and index to quickly find the information you’re looking for.
- Pay attention to keywords and phrases. When skimming, these will help you get an idea of what the text is about. When scanning, they will help you find the specific information you need.
Use a Highlighter or Post-It Notes
As you read, use a highlighter or post-it notes to mark important information. This will help you locate it quickly later and make reviewing easier. When you come across something that you think is important, ask yourself if it’s worth highlighting. If it’s not, move on. You don’t want to highlight everything, or you’ll end up with a text that is mostly yellow (or covered in post-it notes).
One way to better remember what you read is to make connections. When you come across new information, try to relate it to something you already know. For example, if you’re reading about a new concept in psychology, think about how it applies to your own life. If you’re reading a historical text, try to imagine how the events described would have played out if they happened today. The more connections you make, the easier it will be to remember what you read.
Match the Book to Your Environment
When you’re trying to remember something, it helps to be in the same environment as when you first learned it. This is why students often study in the same place where they take exams. If you’re trying to remember what you read, try to do it in the same room or at the same time of day as when you read the material. This will help cue your memory and make it easier to recall what you read.
Finally, one of the best ways to remember what you read is to review the material on a regular basis. After you’ve finished reading a chapter, take some time to review what you’ve learned. If you can, do this within 24 hours of reading the material. If you wait too long, you’re likely to forget some of what you’ve read.
As you review, test yourself to see how much you remember. Try to recall specific details and examples from the text. If you can’t remember something, go back and reread it. Reviewing regularly will help solidify the information in your memory and make it easier to recall when you need it.
Reading is a complex task that requires the use of many different skills. By improving your reading speed and comprehension, you’ll be able to read more efficiently and get more out of what you read. Remember, there is no one perfect way to read. The best approach is to find a method that works for you and stick with it. Practice regularly and you’ll see your reading skills improve in no time.
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