No matter how fast you read, unless you remember what you read you will have wasted your time.

The top three methods for remembering what you read are

1 Use new information. Explain it to someone, discuss it, write it, construct arguments for and against it, think about it and apply it.

2 Have a purpose. Always know why you are reading something
and when you are going to use it.

3. Use the Five-Step Reading System. This system allows you to select exactly what you need to read therefore avoiding any unnecessary and distracting material that hinders concentration and recall (explained in a previous post on speed reading basics).

Other memory techniques.


Make notes as you read or after each section. Include your own thoughts, ideas and cross-references. The more you include your own ideas the stronger and more reliable your long-term memory will be.


Highlight words that carry the message. If you make notes separately, ensure that key words are correct. This avoids creating a list of words that makes no sense when you review at a later date.


A book is a form of communication from one person to another. Take ownership of a book by adding your thoughts to the author ’ s. Underline, circle, highlight essential areas and note whether you agree or disagree. Make note of your reasoning. Mark what you do or don ’ t understand. You should only do this if the book belongs to you. If not, use Post-it notes. All of this will make reviewing easier and more meaningful.


Place the key idea in the centre of a horizontal page.

Main ideas form thick branches from the centre.

Secondary ideas fl ow from the main ideas.

Tertiary ideas fl ow from secondary ideas. And so on until you reach the finest detail.

Use colour and symbols.

One word or idea per line.

Improving Speed And Memory

This quick exercise will help improve your memory and increase your speed.

Using a guide, read one page as fast as you can. Stop and summarize what you remember. Read five to ten pages like this every day, gradually increasing the number of pages before you stop to recall what you read. Start with a familiar subject. As your ability, confidence and comfort increase, take on more challenging material.


Read for one minute, then count how many lines you have read.

Continue reading for another minute, this time, reading two lines more than last time.

Then read four more, then six more, then eight, then ten and so on.

Always read for good comprehension and recall. As soon as you feel you are not understanding or remembering the text, stay at that level until you become a little more confident before gradually increasing speed again.

Reading quickly requires concentration. If you don’ t understand what you read, then you will not easily remember it and your concentration will fade. If this happens you will become bored and disappointed.

With practice, your concentration will improve. As it does, stretch the ‘ one-minute trip ’ to two minutes, then to four and six and eight … and so on.


Invest in a small, cheap electronic metronome at any music store. Practise this for two minutes then relax for five.

Set the metronome at its slowest speed, and read one line
per ‘ tick ’

Every half page or so, increase the pace of the metronome by one beat per minute until you reach the fastest speed.

Then, relax.

The metronome will reach a speed at which you will not be able to read every word. This exercise ‘ pushes ’ your eye and brain to see and absorb more than one word at a time without sub-vocalization. This gradually stretches your ability. When you reach a rate at which you feel you cannot take in what you read, maintain that speed. Make sure that even though you may not take in the content, you see and recognize (but not say) every word. For instance, if there is a foreign word in the text, you would recognize it.

Imagine driving down a motorway at 85 miles per hour. As you approach a town you reduce your speed to 30. You might think you are travelling at 30 until the police stop you and inform you that you were travelling at 40 or 50 – much faster than you thought.

The similarity between driving and speed reading doesn ’ t stop there. Travelling at 70 miles per hour you have to concentrate and don ’ t have time to look at the scenery. When speed reading you are reading so fast that your mind can ’ t wander as ‘ 30 miles per hour ’ . You are more focused.