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How to Read More Effectively

iStock_story.jpg“I’ve read this paragraph five times and I still don’t know what it’s about!” Does that sound familiar?

Reading looks like a passive act, but if you want to have a good understanding of the words that pass before your eyes you might like to try active reading.

There are several ways to do this. The first thing to be sure of is that your brain is fed and watered, if it has it’s basic needs covered it can do it’s job better. So sip some water before you settle down with your reading matter if you need to.

How to remember what you read:

Step 1: Get Curious312922826_b6b096c12f.jpg

Ask your self questions. Why are you reading this? What do you want to know/learn from these words?

If you can’t invoke some active interest, you will drudge through the pages ahead of you like you’re wading through treacle and… remember nothing.


Photo by: Tom@HK FLCKR (CC)

Step 2: Look for Sign Posts

Once you have your questions set up and you’re feeling curious, look for sign posts as you read. They may be sub-headings that point to what you’re looking for, or with practice, you will find that certain words jump out from the page and wave at you. “Here’s the info you want!”

Step 3: Keep it Moving

To help your eyes scan the text quickly and smoothly, run your index finger under the lines as you read. Back skipping when reading is a common problem, that is you read half a line and then your eyes go back to the beginning again. Using your finger to point the way keeps things moving and uses less mental energy than letting your eyes wander across the page without a guide.

Though it might seem like a regression to your childhood reading habits at first, following your finger when your read can speed your reading up considerably , stop back skipping and free your mind to understand what you’re reading.

Step 4: Eyes Up

Try and sit in a comfortable but alert posture. Sometimes the brain can switch off when we look down to read. If your reading is situated at eye level, or slightly above eye level, you will feel more awake.

102651979_f8e64f06ed_m.jpgStep 5: Map it

Mind Mapping is the single most effective tool I’ve ever used for recalling what I’ve read. I’ve used mind mapping for remembering the key points of books, articles, study papers, religious texts. You name it, I’ve mapped it.

Anything I know well from reading comes from active reading using the steps above, and the rest of what I’ve read, is either a vague memory or forgotten.

Photos by: Lost in Scotland Flickr Photo (CC)


Written by Ananga Sivyer. Join me on Facebook or Twitter



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  • Response
    Welcome to the twenty-second edition of Brain Blogging — a semi-monthly blog carnival that aims to review posts “related to the brain and mind that go beyond the basic sciences into a more human and multidimensional perspective.”Plea...

Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for the tips. I think they are helpful to me as a heavy reader. :)
Usually before I put down my book, I scan through the things I read once.
And the next time I take up my book, I read through what I have read previously.
That means I read through the material 3 times, which makes me remember things easier :)


Dec 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRelax

I have had my share of reading attempts but I quickly fall asleep. Now I pretend like I'm reading but in reality I rent the movie or documentary. I make notes to remember the key points and use advance random vocabulary to make my self seem smart. Then I condescendingly put down people and undermine their intelligence; feeding my ego.

Jan 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny Wolmack

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