How to remember book notes

The trick to remembering what you read

Isn’t it annoying how we can remember countless things that have no real use and yet we struggle to remember things we read that are important for exams or work. We may spend hours trying to memorise our notes but, however much we need to know about the history of canals for the upcoming exam, it just won’t go in!

Quite simply, this is likely to be because there is no story behind it. Think about your favourite boxset. I’m sure you know the name of every character, how they are linked, and every detail of their backstories stretching back years. That’s a lot of information to remember! This shows your brain is capable of digesting and storing tons of information, you just need to find a way to apply this to the subjects that you need to learn.

So how can you remember everything you read?

The key here is links and creating a story. You can remember your boxset because everything and everyone is connected and is part of a story. So you just need to do this with your book notes.

Trying to remember separate sections of information just won’t work, especially if it’s a subject that doesn’t particularly interest you. You need to activate your brain and spark its interest to make it want to remember the notes you read, and the way to do this is by creating a story with the information.

The linking principle

If you try to remember individual pieces of information that aren’t connected, you will find it very difficult. At the same time, if you’re trying to learn unfamiliar information that perhaps you don’t find that interesting, it can also be quite hard.

By finding a way to link the different pieces of information in an entertaining and memorable sequence, and with ideas that you are already familiar with and like, you may find it easier to recall the different sections of the notes you need to learn. The story sequence will enable you to remember the information in a particular order, which is invaluable when it comes to memory.

Putting it into practice

The above video shows a practical example of how you can create a memorable story from a piece of text to help you remember what you read. The main point is, when you’re reading, to always find out and remember what it’s about i.e. what the key message is. When you have grasped this, then you can identify the major points of significance and focus on remembering them.

After highlighting these points, it’s story time! Try and link these points to images and ideas that you already know and ideally like. Forging a connection between this unfamiliar new information and pre-existing ideas will mean you can recall it much more effectively than if you focused solely on the new notes. The stronger the associations you make, the easier it will be to remember.

Whether it’s a word that sounds similar to another word (particularly with complicated names), an idea that has some relevance or meaning to you, or simply finding a way to create a visual from a bland fact, these connections will enable you to build a new and, hopefully more memorable, story in your head that will help you remember all your notes.

Can you remember what you read?

After creating these visual markers, it is then time to review. Reading back over your notes will help to reinforce both the new story and the original information, making the connections and associations stronger and therefore easier to recall!

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