Have you ever had the experience of reading a chapter in a text book or a section in a report and finding at the end of it that you can hardly recall a word of what has been said?
Whether you want to learn about company’s finances, how to conjugate French verbs, the characteristics of Semillon grape varieties or any other subject, here’s how you can greatly increase your retention and make yourself much more open to further learning about the subject.
I’m assuming that you have some sort of interest in the subject you are studying (otherwise why are you studying it?) So you almost certainly have some idea about it already, even if it’s quite vague.
The first step takes place before you read the passage. I call it writing a blind draft. Write down everything you think you know about the subject without checking any of the facts. Write it all out with the fullest confidence as if you were the greatest living expert. Don’t be afraid to invent things. If you don’t know the figures, just make them up - using your best possible guestimate of course.
Once you’ve done Step One: Read the passage. Do the research. Take notes in the usual way.
The next step is to put away your notes. Then go back to your blind draft and edit it so it is as accurate as you can make it from memory. You may astonish yourself about how much clearer your understanding is now. But you may also find that there are many things you are still unclear about or facts you can’t remember.
Put your revised blind draft away and go back to your notes or to the original document. Then put your notes away and go back to revise the blind draft again.
What you will almost certainly find is that the to-and-fro process between your draft and the text you are studying has made your mind actively engage with the subject in a way which mere reading or note taking never succeeds in doing.
This method can be used for all sorts of things apart from reading. It works just as well at lectures and presentations. Do you want to remember the route to your holiday destination? Write out a blind draft. Do you want to remember your appointments for the coming week? Write out a blind draft. Do you want to be on top of your own finances? Write out a blind draft. Then do the research, revise your draft and repeat the process as many times as you need to.