How to Remember What You Read

Study while you read using sticky-note flags

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How often have you read a book from start to finish, only to discover that you haven't retained very much of the information it contained? This can happen with any type of book. Literature, textbooks, or just-for-fun books can all contain information you really want or need to remember.

There is good news. You can remember the important facts of a book by following a simple method.

What You Need

  • Book that is interesting or required reading
  • Colored sticky-note flags (small)
  • Pencil with eraser (optional)
  • Note cards


  1. Have sticky notes and a pencil on hand as you read. Try to get in the habit of keeping supplies on hand for this active reading technique.
  2. Stay alert for important or pivotal information. Learn to identify meaningful statements in your book. These are often statements that sum up a list, trend, or development in an assigned reading. In a piece of literature, this may be a statement that foreshadows an important event or a particularly beautiful use of language. After a little practice, these will start to jump out at you.
  3. Mark each important statement with a sticky flag. Place the flag in position to indicate the beginning of the statement. For instance, the sticky part of the flag can be used to underline the first word. The "tail" of the flag should stick out from the pages and show when the book is closed.
  4. Continue to mark passages throughout the book. Don't worry about ending up with too many flags.
  5. If you own the book, follow up with a pencil. You may want to use a very light pencil mark to underline certain words that you want to remember. This is helpful if you find that there are several important points on one page.
  6. Once you have finished reading, go back to your flags. Re-read each passage that you have marked. You'll find that you can do this in a matter of minutes.
  7. Make notes on a note card. Keep track of all your readings by creating a collection of note cards. These can be valuable at test time.
  8. Erase the pencil marks. Be sure to clean up your book and remove any pencil marks. It's okay to leave the sticky flags in. You may need them at finals time!

Additional Tips

  1. In the course of reading a book, you may come across several noteworthy statements in each chapter or a single thesis statement in each chapter. It depends on the book.
  2. Avoid using a highlighter on a book. They are great for class notes, but they destroy the value of a book.
  3. Only use a pencil on books you own. Don't mark library books.
  4. Don't forget to use this method when reading literature from your college reading list.
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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Remember What You Read." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). How to Remember What You Read. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Remember What You Read." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).