How to remember what you read

Have you ever wondered what is the right way to study so that you remember what you read? Exams preparations have begun and all the students are busy digging their books to read and learn everything that is in the syllabus. Everybody is trying their best to crack the GATE or ESE examination and wishing for a bright and prosperous future for them.

Amidst this confidence of cracking the examination, one thing that actually worries most of the students is ‘Retention’. While all the students are reading and learning the syllabus, not everyone is able to retain everything. This actually pulls down their confidence and they worry about ‘How to remember what you read’.

Though not being able to retain what you read is a very common phenomenon, it is also very easy to get over this tension and sharpen your brain to remember what you read and improve your reading skills. While many of the toppers have also in their interview shared their secret study tips for exams. In this article, we aim to summarize all those points. We through these simple ways of memorizing want to help all the students to crack the examination and come put with flying colors.

So how to remember what you read: The art of memorizing

1. Reading – ‘The first step’

Memorizing something that you have never read is not possible therefore, it is important that you read your books or topics with full concentration and sincerity. Just going through every line word to word without understanding what it meant is a useless exercise. So whenever you sit to read make up your mind that you have to understand as much as you can.

If you have read the entire page and you have understood nothing, re-read the page until you understand the basic crux of it. Some important things to be kept in mind while reading are:

  • The first reading is only an intro so don’t get disheartened if you are unable to recall everything after the first reading.
  • Do not underline or mark important in the first reading. First reading only helps you in getting an idea about what the topic is. In the future, while you read, you will be better equipped with marking the important topics.
  • Make sure you are reading the book or topic not just for the sake of completing the syllabus, but also for understanding the topic well. GATE and ESE have certain questions which require application of various concepts. Unless you have read the topic with concentration and understand the underlying concept, questions like these can actually fetch you negative or no marks at all.

2. Revision – ‘The Key’

While reading is necessary but revision is the key to remember everything. Reading once provides an introduction to the topic whereas revision helps in understanding and retaining that topic for long. Some important points to be kept in mind during the Revision time are:

  • From the first revision i.e second reading stat marking things that you think are important.
  • Ensure that you schedule the revisions of the book at close intervals. Longer gap will lose the significance of revision, as you may have to start right from the start if you forget what you read in the last reading.
  • Highlight all the important points and words which you feel if written in the ESE mains will help you fetch good marks.
  • After revision try to make short notes or diagrams in order to compress the topic or the chapter into small bits. This will really help when you revise the topics before he exam.
  • If possible, you can also make e-notes using various apps like Evernote. These notes will help you in revising the topic whenever and wherever you get time.

3. Highlighting Books and Notes

Highlighting is an exercise which really helps in remembering what is important. If you have highlighted points and words in your books and notes it will be a piece of cake to remember it in the exams. While highlighting is a great technique it will never replace note-making. Make sure you also make notes of all that you have highlighted. Some points to be kept in mind while highlighting.

  • Never highlight in the first go as you might end up highlighting everything in the book.
  • First, try to underline points with your pencil so that you can erase them if you feel it is not that important.
  • In the third or fourth reading, you can finally highlight the really important points.
  • If the highlighted part is too much then make sure you make notes for them too.

4. Memory Palace

One of the most effective art of remembering what you read is to build a mind palace. This is not a fairy tale palace but a memory palace that you own and whenever you are unable to recall anything you just have to visit the palace once and you have all that you have read right in front of your eyes. So now, how do we build a memory palace?

  • Think of a place, a house, office and or any other place which you know inside out and you can walk around even in the dark without help.
  • Whenever you are reading something make sure that you walk around the place you have chosen in the first place and start placing important things in different places of this place.
  • Make sure whenever you are sitting idle revise their memory palace.
  • During the examination, whenever you are stuck in that particular topic just take a stroll down your memory palace and you will be good to go.

Why is it Special?

Memory palace is an amazing technique that uses your creativity and imagination to memorize anything however difficult or easy it maybe. Keep these points in mind while memorizing are:

  • One memory palace for one topic: Make sure you do not use the same memory palace for various topics as this will only create confusion. So different topics will have different memory palace.
  • Make sure you know the place well: Whenever you change your palace make sure you are well aware of that place. As not knowing the place well may actually be difficult in memorizing everything.
  • Set a fixed path: Whenever you place ties in the memory palace make sure it is in a set pattern attaching some relevance to it. If the order of placement is hampered it may also create a confusion during the examination day.

5. Reading out loud

As kids, we have all heard parents say that whenever you read, try to be loud. Your voice should reach your ears. Well though our parents were probably saying it to confirm that we are studying. But this technique is also a great technique to remember what you read. So whenever you sit to read something make sure that you read it loud instead of just mumbling to yourself. The benefits of such reading are:

  • Your concentration increases as you read it aloud so you cannot miss out on anything.
  • You will not get bored or sleepy when you read out loud.
  • You will surely remember what you have read as it will strike your ear and you listen to it twice.
  • It helps in improving your diction and expression, which you will then transfer into your speaking voice and writing voice.
  • Reading aloud improves your visual memory and ability to see images in your mind

Extra Tips for How to Remember What You Read

While the above are some special things that one can follow to improve their memorizing power. Let us now discuss some reading skills that one must follow while reading.

  • Define new words: While reading any article, book or topic make sure that you do not leave any word unnoticed. So define every word, this will help you in understanding the sentence and the topic better. In the mains examination instead of beating round the bush, use of good words will help in gaining more marks.
  • Understand the importance of what you are reading:
    Depending on how important the particular topic or subject is to your exam, how you want to read it and how much time you want to dedicate towards it changes.
  • Locate key words: While you prepare your notes for any topic, make sure you take out some keywords. Use these keywords during the mains examination for better marks and rank.
  • Highlight and underline important sentences: While reading, make sure that you underline what is important and. If more information is needed, research and write down whatever new you read right next to the relevant topic in the book. This will help you understand the topic better when you revise it.
  • Use graphics: While making notes for any topic use graphics to understand better. Graphics are always catchy both for notes and answers in the mains exam.
  • Discuss: Last but not the least make sure whatever topic you have read discuss with some of your friends and colleagues so that you get a better idea about it and if any doubts you can clear that too.
  • Read more: If there is a problem instead of running away what is more important is we face it head on. So if you are unable to memorize then read more and more. Don’t just read course books you can also pick up novels which will also help you improve your reading, concentration and inspire you to work double harder.


With the above study tips for exams, you can actually read any book remember everything. Nothing is impossible in the world and worrying because you cannot recall what you read is not an issue. All you need is to change your examination pattern and try the above given suggestions. It may take some time but revision, highlighting, graphics, notes, memory palace will always help you. This will improve your reading habit and in turn help you in your exam.

The road to success and the road to failure are almost the same. What makes the difference is individual’s attitude. Lakhs of students prepare for the GATE and ESE examination every year but only few of them make it to the final list. What vary are not the books they read or the place they live but their studying pattern.

When we hear toppers giving tips for exams, everyone has a unique style. What stays constant is their reading skills. They believe in making sure that they revise in regular intervals, make mnemonics and memory palace. Read with full concentration and by using all the methods retain whatever they have read. This helps them remain calm during the exam and give their best during the examination.

2 thoughts on “How to remember what you read

  • May 16, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks for writing this article.
    Please write one article about vocabulary improvement for gate?

    • May 17, 2019 at 9:54 am

      Dear Candidate,

      Thanks for writing to us. We are glad to know that you liked this article. Your valuable suggestion will surely be taken into consideration. Keep reading this blog to get more useful content.

      Team MADE EASY


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