A Guide on How To Remember What You Read: 8 Effective Ways

The question of how to remember what you read is a common one among most individuals. But this article seeks to provide answers.

Here’s Why You Can’t Remember What You Read

If you’re reading something interesting, you might put your brain on auto-pilot to savor that information.

But, if you’re reading a dull article, you might be struggling to get through it without energy. Put in a little more effort and make sure you are actively focused, not just letting your mind wander all the time.

Do not read the book faster than you have time to process it. It takes time for your brain to enhance the information you’re reading and make it your own.

When you don’t absorb the material swiftly, you won’t retain it for long.

If you don’t read and understand the text, you will likely be held back by all the information in your head. You might miss key aspects, and it becomes overwhelming trying to make sense of everything.

So how does it all work?

How Does Your Brain Turn Reading into Memory?

Reading is a brain exercise that increases cognitive capacity by activating different brain functions. It allows us to use everything from images to language to remember things we read a week ago.

Your comprehension, auditory and visual process, and fluency are all engaged in the activity when you read.

It makes the brain analyze and combine the content to create a story. It heightens mental activity by stimulating different groups of neurons in the brain responsible for perception and thoughts.

Reading and memorizing something with complete focus strengthens the connections between specific neurons. Depending on how often you try to recall something plays a role in strengthening the connection between the neurons and reactivating the memory.

As a result, the information you read solidifies in the brain and helps you recall the content at a later date.

person holding a book and sitting on a brown surface
Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

How to remember what you read? 8 Effective Tips

Why do people struggle to figure out how to remember things they read? Some people know how to read faster but cannot retain the information they see. Others are told to write down what they remember, but this method can be tedious and inefficient.

This article will help you figure out how to remember what you read in a way that is convenient and easy to apply.

Know your purpose for reading

Reading without a purpose won’t let you retain the information you read. You should know why you’re reading something and if it will fulfill the goal. Are you reading for entertainment? To know something or someone better? To acquire a new skill? Or to start up a new business?

You need to have an idea of what you want to get from the book. You can’t expect to take in an endless amount of information and remember every little detail that’s not relevant to your purpose.

When you know your purpose for reading, it will help you stay focused on the critical parts of the information. It will save time and make your reading more impactful.

Skim through the content thoroughly

It is not necessary to skim content thoroughly if you are reading for entertainment. When reading to recall information, it must be scanned extensively.

It involves carefully going through the headings, tables, graphs, and paragraphs. You should adjust your reading pace based on your purpose of reading to take in the most important parts of the text.

Below are the benefits of skimming, which sounds simple but are significant to reading.

  • Primes the memory to help you remember information quickly when you read the material for the second time.
  • Directs your brain to look for the important parts of the document in certain segments.
  • Creates a sense of holistic reading and an overall understanding of the text, making it easier to remember specific details.

Highlight & Take notes

One way to increase your ability to retain information is to take note of what you’re learning. Keeping a detailed record will allow you to remember what you’ve already learned. Take notes of keywords and maintain a separate notebook dedicated to your learning.

Notes are a vital tool for re-discussing and integrating what you read. There are many note-taking techniques like recording on index cards, highlighting key phrases in the book, or using digital devices. You can choose whichever method you prefer the most.

You can start taking notes by summarizing each chapter after reading it or transcribing passages and phrases. If you find it difficult to organize your thoughts, try explaining the chapter to a friend who has never read it before.

Stay focused & connect with the words

Besides note-taking, you should focus on creating a connection with the words you read, known as active reading. This is a process to create a mental model with a determination to understand and evaluate the text. In simpler words, you fully engage with the words and focus on how it is relevant to your life.

As you encounter new information, create an affinity between old and new by linking new ideas with what you already know. When you can associate new ideas with familiar objects, they will stick in your mind better.

Rehearse when reading

Rehearsing when reading is an effective way to memorize information and retain it in your long-term memory. It will help you create a link between what you’re learning and what you already know. Divide the content into segments and understand how it satisfies your purpose of reading.

You might want to try to recall what you have read after reading a few pages. This allows your brain to become more familiar with the data and cement them in your memory.

It will keep your brain in working memory and help you gain more insights into the subject you’re reading. In simpler words, rehearsing will promote memory formation and improve understanding.

Build a mental picture

When you can turn the words of a book into a mental picture, it will be imprinted in your long-term memory. Building a mental image is an effective technique to remember what you read. When you encounter a new concept, pause for a while and try to visualize it as distinctly as possible.

A picture can hold the essence of thousands of words and is easier to memorize and recall. The process of visualizing a concept is also called learning through association. It creates a connection between what you read and what you picture, helping you to remember everything.

However, simply creating a mental image isn’t enough to ensure success. It requires the reader to actively read and engage in the content to visualize the concept in mind.

Practice as soon as the reading is complete

The brain generates constant memory of words and meaning through reading. Recalling right after reading stimulates brain activity to solidify the information.

Once you’re done with a reading session, start rehearsing right away. Keep your concentration and avoid multitasking since it won’t let info consolidate in your memory. Think about the content you read later in the day and continue reading it for the next few days.

Read within your attention span

Reading within your attention span is an integral part of memorization. If you can’t concentrate, it won’t last in your brain no matter how much you read. Most people have a short attention span. So it’s wise not to read dense and complicated content for over 15 minutes at a time. It would help if you tried taking a break in between and quizzing yourself on what you read and how much you can remember.

The information you consume within your attention span is more likely the ones you can recall later. Therefore, readers should also try to work on their ability to concentrate for more extended periods.


Many people struggle to remember what they read. But there are numerous ways you can maximize the benefits of reading.

This article discusses some practical ways to overcome the barriers in your memory and remember what you read. Choose which method works best for you and stick to it to see results.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

What is Reading? — Making Sense of Letters and Symbols

When studying the English language, you should familiarize yourself with its different concepts. It includes spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and reading.…

July 4, 2022

What is Readability Score? — a Quick Guide

Your text should cater to all kinds of readers. When you’re writing an article that intends to reach various individuals,…

July 4, 2022

Causes of Reading Comprehension Problems

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret written words, connecting the information in the text with previous knowledge.…

July 4, 2022

What Is ZPD Reading Level?

Everyone unique and we all have a unique understanding of the world. So what should the level of difficulty be…

July 4, 2022

The Best ELL Strategies for Reading!

Non-native English speakers can be proficient readers in their original tongue. However, those who are enrolled in an ELL (English…

July 4, 2022

These Are the Best Practices in Reading!

Best practices have been a topic of discussion in the reading education community for a long time. Among these best…

July 4, 2022