T Nation

Improving Reading Retention

Okay, so I’m not the best at retaining the information that I read, especially in a long, informative book (although I seem to retain a lot about the Hobbit, and the LOTR series).

I’m starting to get pretty serious about starting a business, and I’ll be reading a lot of different books to help me out, and I also plan on reading a lot more training books, so I was wondering if there are any tricks or systems anyone here has used to help their reading comprehension.

Maybe just reading more often would help?

(changed title thanks to vroom)

What I usually do is read a few pages, or a full chapter (depending on the length), then write down or try to remember what the chapter was about, then go back and review and see if I remembered what the information was about.

You could also write down some notes while you are reading, then at the end of the chapter, go back and see if you remember what you wrote.

If you are a slow reader, don’t force yourself to be a fast reader, just to try to get through the content faster. Make sure you understand the info, even if you have to read it several times over. Also, reading important parts out loud is helpful sometimes.

Comprehension or retention?

If it’s retention, don’t just read it and realize you understand it. Think about what you’ve just picked up and said uh-huh to. Say it a different way or recall the points that lead to the conclusion.

Before you put the book down, walk back through the things you’ve picked up that you don’t want to forget. If you can’t remember it… go back and get it again.

You are reading for a purpose, not just to enjoy the read and follow along with the thoughts of the author. As you read you’ll spot things you don’t want to lose. Throw in those post-it things to get back to the main points quickly during a review.

If it was comprehension, get a dictionary… :wink:

[quote]vroom wrote:
Comprehension or retention?

If it’s retention, don’t just read it and realize you understand it. Think about what you’ve just picked up and said uh-huh to. Say it a different way or recall the points that lead to the conclusion.

Before you put the book down, walk back through the things you’ve picked up that you don’t want to forget. If you can’t remember it… go back and get it again.

You are reading for a purpose, not just to enjoy the read and follow along with the thoughts of the author. As you read you’ll spot things you don’t want to lose. Throw in those post-it things to get back to the main points quickly during a review.

If it was comprehension, get a dictionary… ;)[/quote]

Ahh, yes, I meant retention.

I think I have reading ADD. I realized that I need to take breaks often to get back into what I was reading, and have caught myself finishing a whole page while thinking of something else, then I would re-read the page and see that I missed a lot of info.

I also do this when my wife is talking sometimes…that never ends well.

[quote]tmoney1 wrote:
What I usually do is read a few pages, or a full chapter (depending on the length), then write down or try to remember what the chapter was about, then go back and review and see if I remembered what the information was about.

You could also write down some notes while you are reading, then at the end of the chapter, go back and see if you remember what you wrote.

If you are a slow reader, don’t force yourself to be a fast reader, just to try to get through the content faster. Make sure you understand the info, even if you have to read it several times over. Also, reading important parts out loud is helpful sometimes.[/quote]

Thanks. While I’m going to school, I’ll probably be only working part-time, so I’ll make sure to set time aside to read more often, and for longer periods of time.

I should really get organized and write stuff down too, as you said.

I’ll be going to school at the University of Phoenix (Albuquerque campus), and they only meet once a week, and you only take 1 month long course at a time. Weird how they do it, but it’s great for working adults.

Maybe I’ll even try to explain what I read to my wife from time to time, as that might help me to remember it.

one thing that always works for me is explaining/teaching what I’ve read to somone else, even if they really don’t care much about the topic.

If you tell them first that you want to tell them about what you read so you can remember it, especailly family close friends etc, they’ll be all for helping you out. Ifind this works for finding the holes in your memory, what you need to go back and re-read of look into further if you can’t explain it fully the first few times.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
tmoney1 wrote:

Thanks. While I’m going to school, I’ll probably be only working part-time, so I’ll make sure to set time aside to read more often, and for longer periods of time.

I should really get organized and write stuff down too, as you said.

I’ll be going to school at the University of Phoenix (Albuquerque campus), and they only meet once a week, and you only take 1 month long course at a time. Weird how they do it, but it’s great for working adults.

Maybe I’ll even try to explain what I read to my wife from time to time, as that might help me to remember it. [/quote]

Or you can read a couple of pages, and then have her read the same pages, and you tell her what you read, and see if it’s the same as what she comprehended.

Wow, class once a week for a month, and it’s done? That’s sweet!!! Do you only take one class at a time, or a couple of classes?

Another thing that might help is putting an index card or a piece of paper underneath the line you are reading, and blocking the rest of the page, and just keep sliding the paper down line by line, focusing on just one line at a time, instead of visualizing the whole page.

Maybe only read when you can devote your full attention to the task.

This doesn’t mean you have a handy excuse not to read, it means you devote your full attention and stop when you aren’t, get your shit together later, and go back to it.

It sounds like you’ll have to work to focus and keep your attention glued to your books even if they aren’t “interesting” per se.

[quote]tmoney1 wrote:

Wow, class once a week for a month, and it’s done? That’s sweet!!! Do you only take one class at a time, or a couple of classes?
[/quote]

Yea, I didn’t think it would be like that. I took 9 courses through them online, but seeing as there’s a campus 30 minutes from me, I applied.

The adviser told me it’s based the same way as their online classes. I will also need some type of office environment to access for certain class projects (usually a person’s job).

We needed that for the online courses too; we would have to ask questions at work, or share experiences that related to the topic of discussion in class.

Lots of times the table of contents provides a decent outline.

Going through the glossary, if one is provided, can help jog your memory.

[quote]SamuraiWannaBe wrote:
one thing that always works for me is explaining/teaching what I’ve read to somone else, even if they really don’t care much about the topic.

If you tell them first that you want to tell them about what you read so you can remember it, especailly family close friends etc, they’ll be all for helping you out. Ifind this works for finding the holes in your memory, what you need to go back and re-read of look into further if you can’t explain it fully the first few times.[/quote]

I agree with this. If you can’t teach what you learned to someone else in a way that they can understand it fully…then you don’t really know it yourself.

This was one reason I used to tutor the students I was in class with often in college. If I could teach the kid sitting right next to me to fully understand the subject, there wasn’t much the professor could throw at me that I wasn’t ready for.

I have a very short attention span and am often working on several projects at once. I find it hard to focus on only one task at a time because I get bored with it. If I am doing something else as well, I find I can focus with great intensity on a task. Maybe your mind works a similar way.

Either way, you need to find out what helps you the most as an individual.

[quote]dragonmamma wrote:
Lots of times the table of contents provides a decent outline.

Going through the glossary, if one is provided, can help jog your memory.[/quote]

Texbooks often have those end of the chapter tests as well.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
SamuraiWannaBe wrote:
one thing that always works for me is explaining/teaching what I’ve read to somone else, even if they really don’t care much about the topic.

If you tell them first that you want to tell them about what you read so you can remember it, especailly family close friends etc, they’ll be all for helping you out. Ifind this works for finding the holes in your memory, what you need to go back and re-read of look into further if you can’t explain it fully the first few times.

I agree with this. If you can’t teach what you learned to someone else in a way that they can understand it fully…then you don’t really know it yourself.

This was one reason I used to tutor the students I was in class with often in college. If I could teach the kid sitting right next to me to fully understand the subject, there wasn’t much the professor could throw at me that I wasn’t ready for.

I have a very short attention span and am often working on several projects at once. I find it hard to focus on only one task at a time because I get bored with it. If I am doing something else as well, I find I can focus with great intensity on a task. Maybe your mind works a similar way.

Either way, you need to find out what helps you the most as an individual. [/quote]

Yea, I know what you mean about getting bored paying attention to one thing at a time. I’m not sure if I can handle working on a couple things at once, but it’s worth a shot. I’ll try it out and then try to teach my wife what I just learned.

Thanks for all the replies. Now I’m just waiting on my first business book.

I have to go back to reading these 5 T-Nation threads that I have open for now. :slight_smile:

[quote]Professor X wrote:
dragonmamma wrote:
Lots of times the table of contents provides a decent outline.

Going through the glossary, if one is provided, can help jog your memory.

Texbooks often have those end of the chapter tests as well.[/quote]

Good thinking. Maybe I’ll check out my local college’s book store and buy more than just the bare minimum that my courses require.

One could argue that they’re outdated, but like you said, they could be formatted better for truly learning from them.

I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that a novel, or story is descriptive, and helps you form a picture in your mind.

While you may not be able to remember the exact words of every page in a novel, you can pretty much remember a lot of the plot, and the main points because of that.

Where as a text, or informational book does not assist you in forming pictures. I think that makes it much harder to recall later on. It may help to try to form your own pictures of what they are saying.

Anyways I get the same thing, if I read a story I can remember tons about it. When it comes to trying to read information, its tough. Also though, if someone just gives me a list of instructions on how to do something I forget almost instantly.

Where as if they walk me through it as I do it, I retain it much longer. I think a lot of people are like that as well, if not everyone.

Increase your reading speed. Any book or class devoted to such will help (e.g. Triple Your Reading Speed by Wade E. Cutler).

It will increase retention (a) because it won’t take you so long to read a book that you forget the beginning by the time you reach the end and (b) because you will be able to read it several times in the time it took you to read it once. Plus, you will learn strategies to reduce reading fatigue.

Try it, it works.

[quote]boonville410 wrote:
Increase your reading speed. Any book or class devoted to such will help (e.g. Triple Your Reading Speed by Wade E. Cutler). [/quote]

I cannot disagree more emphatically. Speed reading is virtually worthless unless you are intentionally trying to skim for information or you know the topic very, very well.

As far as constructive advice: Write summaries of chapters, pages, or even paragraphs. If you don’t have someone else to teach, teach yourself. That is, write out a brief summary of whatever it is you read, then continue on. A day or two later, reread your summary, and then reread the chapter. That should allow you to figure out any important points you missed, while reinforcing the material and allowing you to cement it in your mind.

Another thing to do is to engage yourself in conversation with the book. Ask questions as you go along, rather than allowing the book to become a monologue. Give and take makes things naturally more memorable.

I dunno I disagree with that, based on the principle that it is completly ineffecient. Not only that, but for it to be effective you would have to have a damn good reading speed.

For instance, if you retained 80% of what you read. you would still have to be able to read twice as fast as everyone else, since you will be re-reading 100% of what you just read, to get that last 20%.

That’s a bit extreme, but I hope you get my point. It would be better to get 100% of what NEED to remember on the first go around. Then work on being able to read faster.

You can also highlight, and put sticky tabs in the books, to index it that way you can get back to what you need quicker.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
Another thing to do is to engage yourself in conversation with the book. Ask questions as you go along, rather than allowing the book to become a monologue. Give and take makes things naturally more memorable.[/quote]

Right the more interactive you are, the more it helps to remember.

[quote]SwampThing wrote:
For instance, if you retained 80% of what you read. you would still have to be able to read twice as fast as everyone else, since you will be re-reading 100% of what you just read, to get that last 20%.
[/quote]

It isn’t only that… speed reading is based upon the questionable idea that the human brain operates much faster than our eyes can take in information. If the eyes were the bottleneck, it would indeed be necessary to make them work faster.

There is also the belief that sub-vocalization is using an inherently slower part of the brain to process the written word.

This is all bunk.

First of all, much of what we read, especially if we intend to learn anything from it at all, must be thought about to be understood. The goal is not to see who can move his eyes over the page the fastest, but rather to process and make sense of the information that is read. That takes time. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably not reading challenging material, and you might want to reconsider your reading program.

Secondly, the many advocates of so-called “visual reading,” wherein sub-vocalization is eliminated and the words are understood “visually,” seem to ignore that much of the nuance of language is understood in it’s aural form. That is, we make sense out of a lot of information by hearing how it sounds. Sounds convey meaning. That is to say nothing of the ability to appreciate turns of phrase, puns, and other linguistic delights which are best appreciated by “hearing” the words. And my last note on this visual style of reading is this: when you read aurally, you still process the visual elements.

So you are engaging more of your brain in the process, engaging more senses, and experiencing the work more fully. The more engaged you are, the more likely you are to understand and to remember.