Source: http://www.quora.com/How-do-I-more-effectively-recall-what-I-read

Radhika Morabia, sophomore
There is a huge difference between passive reading and active reading.

Humans are lazy creatures. We enjoy telling ourselves that we are actually learning and studying effectively merely by reading or watching a video. That isnot true. It’s difficult to differentiate between the important material and useless fluff.

Think about when you’re reading a fun novel. You are actively predicting the future, calling back upon past knowledge, and keeping up with the characters and plots. How do you pick up a book after a week, and still be able to enjoy from exactly where you left off?

You were making connections. You built upon your foundations from earlier chapters and were connecting the book to your own emotions. Have you ever come across a character you really loved, then something happened to them, and you had to put the book down because you couldn’t handle it anymore? That never happens when you read your history textbook, does it?

The answer isn’t to read your textbooks like novels. You’ll fall back into thinking you are making an impact by merely reading.

The answer is to condense how much you have to remember, and to reiterate it again and again.

It’s harder than it sounds. Start by having a notebook for each subject, specifically for your studying. You won’t be showing anyone else this, it’s just for you. Even if you already have a notebook for class notes, copying from the teacher isn’t going to fix your recall.

You’re going to be writing in an [adjusted] Cornell style. On the right side will be your notes and main points, and on the left — you’re going to make connections and voice out your thoughts. Experiment with spacing.

It doesn’t have to be neat or make any sense to anyone but you. I have a friend who writes “change” as Delta, regardless of whether it’s Chemistry or not. The shorthand makes sense to her, and that’s all that matters.

Now, let’s get to the actual studying. Sit straight. (It’s proven to improve focus). Pull out both your textbook and your notebook. Flip to your chapter and get the indexing all fixed up.

Your goal — by the end of whatever you’re studying — is to create a more condensed and clear version in your notebook. Through pictures, an essay, or an outline. Whatever works for you. Actively be searching for the most important stuff to go in your improved textbook and showcase it in a way that is clear to you and only you. Make connections to prior knowledge and ask questions (for Googling when you get back on your computer) on the left side of the paper.

The point is, when you’re forced to write it out, your brain can’t lie to itself and slack in its’ actual condensing and mushing into memorable knowledge.

Don’t focus on being super neat. As long as it’s legible, you should be good.

Quick FAQ:

Do I have to write it out? Yes.
The act of writing out the letters gives more retention than typing.

But I want to back it up online for easy referencing and cross-platform availability!
Buy Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine and take pictures of the pages with your fancy phone. If you don’t have a fancy phone, ask the person next to you.

Can’t I just highlight the important stuff?
Oh, you. The point is to regurgitate it in a way that is attractive to your brain. Highlighting [might] find the important stuff, but it doesn’t allow you to connect to the text. You need both to effectively recall information.

What if the most important things are definitions?
Anki – friendly, intelligent flashcards

Why does it take so long?
At first, you may notice that this regurgitation Cornell method takes longer than simply reading the text. Sometimes even twice as long. However, it makes you actually learn the material versus spending an hour reading for homework, and an hour reading before the test. (There may also be another hour for the final, and you do not have time to be re-reading the whole chapter when we’re talking about finals).

Do I review my notes?
You probably should nightly. Especially if there are multiple sections in a chapter and you’re being tested on the whole chapter, it’s important to remember what you learned a week ago.

And, as a closing tip — shut off your phone. Texting while studying gives you the mental capability of being drunk while studying.

Good luck, fellow student.

Kyle Brubaker, Inquisitive Bioengineer

I feel like Radhika Morabia touched on a lot of key elements. I suppose I would add that, especially for my upper-div biochem classes that were pure memorization, I found using flash cards and/or sheets of printer paper helpful.

Basically, transcribing what is in the book onto a sheet of paper is the first necessary step. From there, break up what you have written into functional units. So, if you’re trying to memorize something like the Kreb’s cycle, take each step and write down as much as you need to know on separate sheets of paper. Whether or not you need to know the individual biochemical steps if up to you. Or, if you’re trying to memorize amino acid structures, put the chemical structure on one side and the name on the back. Quiz yourself by looking at one side and figuring out the other.

In the end, it comes down to repetition. Ideally, if you can repeat enough components, you will be able to put those together to reconstruct the entirety of what you were trying to memorize (i.e. key amino acids, steps in the Kreb’s cycle).

Anuj Agarwal, Founder Feedspot.com

Forgeting what you have read is common.
1.  everyone experiences it
2.  It is not a deficiency
3.  It can be fixed

Following all or some of these tips should help.

Environment
1.  reasonable quiet
2.  good light
3.  desk and chair are very important – bed is for sleeping, relaxation, and other activities – not reading textbooks and studying – you need to be comfortable but you also need to have some body tension in order for you to stay awake.
4.  reading rate increases if the book is held upright, instead of leaning over the book
5.  no tv or radio, visual and auditory distraction makes concentration impossible.

Getting your timing right
1. Time of day – Think about when you work best (morning, afternoon or evening). When you need to learn facts, try to revise when you are most alert and focused.Taking breaks –
2. Take regular breaks to let your memory recover and absorb the information you have just studied. You will learn best if you revise material, have a sleep and then review the material the next day.
3. Pacing your learning – You will learn best if you spread your learning of a particular topic over an extended period of time. Rather than focusing on similar information for a whole day, change topics completely. When you next pick up a revised topic take a short time to recall what you learned previously and then build on it with new information.

Plan
1.  do a survey/prep/prior knowledge of the material just like you would do for a movie or jogging (you want to know what movie you are going to see and you stretch before you are going to run)
– look at the number of pages
– look at the pictures, diagrams, graphs, charts, etc.
– look at the bold face items, subsections, italics, summaries
– look at definitions, chapter question, problems
2.  know your reading rate for each class, every class is different and your reading rate is different for each class.  I may read math faster and more efficiently than I read chemistry, which means that I may be able to finish a chapter in math much faster than in chemistry.
3.  plan time realistically
4.  set realistic goals, do not overdo it
5.  practice until it comes naturally

Focus methods – Mentally
1.  plan to focus
2.  surveying increases anticipation
3.  use bold face and headings to form questions which will direct your attention
4.  where there is no bold face type or heading, use the first sentence to make your question
5.  repeat answers to yourself
6.  what, why, and how questions are the best

Focus methods – Physical
1.  keep key words, questions for clarification, definitions in the margins (use pencil)
2.  keep separate notebook for each class
3.  take notes on the reading so you never have to go back to the textbook unless you have a question
4.  put the notes in your own words
5.  date your notes in class, as well as the reading notes so that everything can match up later on

Reading is NOT studying!
1.  read for information – not to commit to memory, studying is for reviewing and putting material into your memory
2.  you are unrealistic with yourself if you expect to memorize everything you read and look at
3.  be fair to yourself

Testing yourself
The revision cycle – To get the most from your revision, test yourself again and again but with increasing gaps between tests:

  1. 10 minutes after learning something (e.g. at the end of the 10 minute study break which you take after learning the topic).
  2. 1 day later at the beginning of a revision session.
  3. 3 days later…
  4. 1 week later….etc

Recalling the information

  1. Remembering Practice planning lots of answers to old exam questions. You don’t have to write the answer out in full. Practice plans will get you used to interpreting questions, then choosing and ordering what you know in order to answer them. During the exam this will help your ability to retrieve information quickly and see how to apply it to the particular question.
  2. Stay calm During exams stay calm. If you can’t remember something move on to another topic. Your mind is likely to remember the information once you stop searching for it.

Quora User, Happy 🙂 Contentment module loading

Remembering is different from recalling. Understanding something and remembering is not a difficult activity. It is recalling that makes the remembering stronger. It deals with short-term and long-term memory. The efficacy of recalling reduces as we leave gap in reviewing the subject.

I guess everyone has recalling problem. It will be affected by sleep, stress and even hunger.

Here is an effective technique by a psychologist who has done a fabulous research in the area of Memory & Learning.

It is called as SQ3R technique.  http://www.studygs.net/texred2.htm

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recite
  • Review

SQ3R is by Robinson, Francis Pleasant. (1970) Effective study. New York: Harper & Row.

Hope it helps

Daniel Helman, Geoscientist – Nonprofit Executive Director – ESL Teacher – Sculptor w/ Moldm…

I’ll share one technique I’ve used, to memorize material when I was in graduate school, and loaded with too much work, and not enough sleep.

Here it is:

1.  Take notes on the material that you need to know.  Write down everything that you think is important, or might possibly be important, while you’re reading.
2.  Read through your notes, and copy the most important things again.
3.  If you’re still not recalling what you like, do more copying of the information.

This strategy works really well, and has some interesting benefits:

1.  It’s less taxing mentally than trying to remember everything you need to know in your active memory.
2.  It can be done when a person is very tired, or otherwise distracted.
3.  It is a kinesthetic learning technique, and accessible to more people than other study methods.
4.  It’s easy to gauge your progress, while you’re studying, and you can estimate how long the studying will take.

It has a few drawbacks, as well:

1.  It might take a bit longer than reading by itself.
2.  It wastes paper.

Highly recommended!  I’ve had reports from friends, as well, that this has worked for them, too.  Hang in there!

For long term recall, spaced repetition is the preferred technique. If you only want to do well on exams, last-minute cramming is the more efficient aproach.

Spaced repetition (Wikipedia)

Spaced repetition (detailed review by Gwern)

Learning and Retention in Medical School (the use of spaced repetition for medical school learning)

Ed Caruthers, Retired physicist and technology developer, age 68

Great question.  You asked about telling others what you’ve read but I think you really want to explain it to them.  This isn’t just what was said but why it matters.

Being able to explain what you know to others goes beyond repeating.  It requires connecting what you’ve read to your other knowledge and to your listeners’ (and readers’) other knowledge.  This is integration of all your knowledge and helps you recall and understand each of the pieces.

Start by writing explanations for things you’ve read that you think are important.  You can write the explanations to yourself, preferably in electronic form because that’s the easiest to edit.  Editing lets most of us write better than we speak.  I correct and add as I go, then read the final product and make further edits.  And, as others have said, you can write the explanations in the form of answers to Quora questions.  After you’ve written an explanation, you’ll be better able to explain the same things in conversation.

Over time, this will help you read more actively.  That is, there should be a conversation going on between you and whatever material you are reading.  As you read, you can be thinking about whether this (i.e., what you’re reading right now) is something new or something you already knew, or even just filler that everyone already knew and that the author has said before.  Or is this just a promo, a promise that the author will explain something later?  If this is new and interesting, is it just an assertion, or is it supported?  Is this consistent with other things you believe, with things you’ve read, with your own personal experience?  This kind of active reading will improve your understanding.  It will be easier to write explanations of what you’ve read.  And it will be easier to give oral explanations that are clear and fluent.

Finally, explaining to someone else (verbally or in writing) gives you a chance to get feedback.  How do others react?  Do they not know or not believe some things that you believe?  Are they influenced by considerations you hadn’t thought of?  This is another level of conversation that can help you improve your understanding.

This may sound like a lot of trouble.  But it can become natural and automatic.  Even if you’re reading Twilight, even if you don’t like the book, it’s good to know why and to be able to tell others why.

Nitesh Ambuj, Entrepreneur, Poet, Author, Speaker.

Forgetting something which you have read is normal. Try doing some of these things to remember whatever you have read.

Write some important points and facts
Build a story around the content you have read
Discuss with friends if you read anything interesting
Update your Facebook status, if it’s really interesting people will like/comment and you can get yourself involved
Answer related questions on Quora
Write your views on whatever you have read in a blog post

Sharing is the key here. The more you’ll share – the more you’ll remember.

Vikram Mishra, Software development advisor, lazy, art lover, eccentric, peaceful, philosphe…

A small advice from my side..
I’ve read around 7 books on memory by tony buzan, harry loraine and the other’s so i would like to concisely explain the entire concept of memory.

You have to develop “habit” of reciting what you see.
You forget 70% of an event within 24 hrs , 90% within a week and nearly 100% after 3 months if no “recitation” ever is done of the event.
so it’s easy. concept is “RECITE” remind of your self of important event within 24 hrs first then again within 7 days again, then once within 3 months.

After a certain amount of time depending of repetition of the “effort” and duration of gap between effort of recitation, you’ll gain muscle memory that will help nervous system to make intense amount of connections between neurons and it will become effortless

Lots of visualizing is the key to having a strong memory.
Our brains are better at associating concepts to places/things we can visualize in our minds.

If you are interested in learning more, the book Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer [ http://amzn.to/QnZsQQ ] is a great resource.  It was recently recommended by Bill Gates and has practical tips on how anyone can build a better visual memory.

Quora User

Some great advice here.  A few other thoughts…

Memory relies much more on the creative parts of the brain than the “data storage” parts.  Every time you remember something, you distort it just a bit.  Hence the joke amongst cognitive psychologists: “the purest memory is the one never remembered.”  fMRI studies have memory tasks and creative/inventive tasks displaying very similar neural activity.

Rather than harping on getting the details right, focus on concepts, (which has been mentioned lots above).  When you’re recalling it, all you need are a few facts or “cues”, as they’re called in the psych world, and the rest is all you.  Imagine you’re inventing it fresh each time you tell it.  This creates a more fluid presentation and simultaneously builds confidence, as you get a sense of ownership over the information.

That said, what you’re talking about sounds as much like performance anxiety as it does recall difficulty.  Relaxation cannot be emphasized enough. Ever noticed how amazingly articulate you are over a glass of wine?  How about after a yoga class?  The brain works better in almost any situation when it’s relaxed.  Of course, there has to be a moderate amount of stimulation to motivate someone enough to activate those areas of the brain, but it sounds like what you’re describing– meetings, presentations –should be enough stimulation.

A few tricks:
-Start slow. Your brain is just like your muscles in this way.  It needs to be warmed up.  If you’re a fast-moving, coffee-pounding professional, this may feel extremely uncomfortable at first.  Be OK with allowing it to come slowly and naturally.  (a byproduct is people will shutup when you begin to speak because you’re choosing your words with care).

-Remove the consequence.  What if you open your mouth and Pig Latin comes out?  Be ok with looking like an idiot and stand back and be amazed at how well your brain will work for you if the ego is out of the equation.

-Try out some calming, brain-enhancing supplements like Gotu Kola herb, Skullcap flowering herb, and Ashwagahnda root (boosts seratonin).

Shyam Kamadolli, Entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, now focused on the US

I am plagued by the same syndrome and being in a profession that requires constant absorption and dissemination of information that I have previously read, its a serious handicap.

My solution is a combination of suggestions already mentioned here but I also leverage technology extensively to work around my handicap.

  • I use e-books more than printed books just so I can take notes and make highlights which I can preserve, e-mail and share; in effect I make my own cliff-notes which are also searchable and “reference-able.”
  • I blog – and frequently my posts incorporate compilations of recent understanding or readings.  Once I put something down in my own words I remember it a lot better.
  • My meeting notes now go into my iPad or blackberry instead of on sheets of paper just so I can look them up easily.
  • I find desktop and device search tools work really well to help your recollection in real time: during a phone call or meeting, just type in the memory cues you need and more often than not you will see old emails, documents and web browsing history pop up with the details you need to recall.

Quora User, Total Boxer Coach, BoxingYoga(TM) Coach, BA (Hons) English Literature

A super-duper memorizing technique:

1) Use the contents page as a map for the key ideas in the text.
If the contents page is useless then write your own version.

2) Look for key words in the contents page that refer to visual, auditory and kinaesthetic representations and use them as symbols.

3) Form a thrilling adventure story out of these symbols by interacting with them in dramatic ways and in sequence. Repeat this symbolic story until it sticks.

4) Test to see if the immediate association of these symbols are the key words that you selected from the contents page.

You may also use this technique to memorize paragraphs.

David Urquhart, Garden labourer

If you really have to learn something, I recommend you:
– read it and check you understand it
– find a way to use it (invent a game if you have to) or answer Quora questions about it
– teach someone else, make a YouTube video about it or an elegant infographic

After those three activities, you should have achieved somewhat permanent memorization. Happy learning!

Quora User

2 things.

  1. It isn’t enough to read it, you should be saying or writing it too. Basically make the first recall closer to the first read-through
  2. Repetition. Recall it 10 minutes after you learn it, and again an hour later, and then a few hours later, and then a day later.

I found this amazing program called Mnemosyne, it’s a free computerised flashcard system that shows you flashcards less often as you learn them. After you look at the back of the flashcard, you assign a rating of 0-5, depending on how hard it was to recall the info. If you couldn’t remember it at all, it shows it to you again in the same session until you say that you do. If it was really easy to recall, it wont show it to you for days if not weeks, depending on how well you remember it. Honestly, I can’t spruik this program enough, I think it’s amazing at improving recall.

Godfrey McDonnell

Godfrey McDonnell, ANGLO BARBARIAN.

Immerse all your focus and motivation into how interested you are in the subject and writer.

Here you can white lie yourself if you have to, to get over the do or don’t like hurdle.

Then without any effort.

In a quiet space. Read the text ahead as you read it out loud softly.

Take or make margin notes and highlights as you go.

When u learn something you for example the first question, don’t just mug it up but understand it…..then when you go for the next 1..learn it and again revise the first question again…..similarly when you go for the next 1, revise the the first and second again….in this way you can go on…….by this pattern of studing you will be able to remember things for a longer period of time…….

Ajay Ohri, Homo Sapien

  1. read slower
  2. think after each page or chapter for a sec on what you read
  3. I mostly blog a short piece on what I read after finishing a book I like
  4. make catchy things to remember (like Situation Thought Feelings Action is STFA)
  5. dont sweat picking up the same book again. revision is nice for remembering
  6. use google to revise

Ben Joven, There’s only now.

Read aloud…preferably when nobody is around.

Billu Mandal, frustrated with quora.

Well if you’re studying for exams and trying to memorize then:
1. Write summary of things you’ve read/studied. If you can’t make summary, read again fast then try summarizing. It makes your brain work to connect the dots and is quite effective.

2. If you have time, read something for 1/2 hour then change subject. Dont’ take much time reading one subject, change continuously. Get things on the background.

Later summarize what you’ve read this day.

Seema Shah, Bio: Coach for study skills,Friend and philosopher. More at http://seemashah….

Try recall after 15 minutes.
Typically adults can concentrate for only 20 minutes at a time.
Then move to 30  mins, and then 45 minutes.

Sameer Panchangam, Life Geek

By using Photo reading techniques. Helps bridge the gap between learning unconsciously and recollecting consciously.

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