We’ve all been there – whether while reading a novel, text book, or an important work document there is always a certain point when you stop and think “what was I just reading?” Throughout the day, your brain is required to process masses of information, so being unable to recall every small detail you’ve read should not come as a major surprise. However, when pursuing studies in your chosen field, it’s important to absorb as much information as possible to ensure success in the classroom and beyond. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you successfully retain more information and ensure that you get the most from your reading material.
This may seem like an obvious memory retention tactic, but most people will convince themselves that when the time comes to remember what they’ve read, the required information will simply spring forth with little effort. This is rarely the case and if the information isn’t recorded in a systematic way, it will most likely be forgotten. Taking notes will compel you to actually process what you are reading and rewrite key concepts in your own words. Over time, you will develop your own note-taking style, which will help facilitate quicker, more in-depth understanding of important ideas.
Quick tip: Try creating a diagram or chart to represent important information, or colour code your point-form notes with highlighters.
Teach or Discuss
The easiest way to remember something is by trying to explain it to someone else. Have you ever wondered why you can remember every detail of a major news story that was released months ago, but you can’t remember a mere paragraph from an accounting training textbook that you just read? The answer is simple: you probably discussed the news story with several friends, thereby cementing facts and descriptions in your long-term memory. To achieve similar results with your course material, try talking about it with, or teaching it to a friend. The act of explaining what you have recently read to someone else helps clarify important concepts while boosting retention.
Noteworthy: When you teach something to another person, you’re likely to run into an obstacle or make an error and have to go back and correct yourself—this repetitive action entrenches key ideas in your memory for easier recall later on.
Make a Connection
A great way to retain more of what you’ve read is by relating the new information to something that you are already familiar with. Say you are reading about a young entrepreneur who has recently created a popular new social media website—if you’ve taken any web development courses or studied at any business management colleges, you’ll likely be able to connect the story to information you’ve learned in class. Being able to place new ideas in an established context, and connect them with prior knowledge goes a long way to improving retention.
Try this: Mind maps or brainstorming are useful ways to connect your thoughts and ideas to knowledge you already have, which in turn helps your memory hold on to and recall new information.
What tricks do you use to process and remember new material?