Why Do I Quickly Forget What I Read?

Sometimes you read a book and when you later try to recall what you’d read, it’s almost impossible to remember.

Most people ask me why they easily forget what they read and it always turns into a long conversation because this is not an easy question at all.

We are all different readers and there many factors that influence your ability to recall the things that you read.

This post will therefore break down some of these factors. And provide some context around this question.

This will help you understand what is being asked.

With that said, why do I quickly forget what I read?

You quickly forget what you read due to poor comprehension. Reading is only effective when you understand what you read. If you fail to do so, it will be almost impossible to recall what you read after some time.

Which is why it’s important to put comprehension first every time you read a book.

Why you forget what you read

Below are the common reasons why most people fail to recall what they read.

Knowing these things will help you in your own journey as a reader.

You can use this knowledge as a reference point when you engage in your own reading.

Failure to understand

Of all the top most ressons why readers fail to recall what they read, Lack of comprehension has to be the most important.

People spend too much time looking at reading as only a hobby and fail to see it for what it is. These kinds of people usually passively read books.

This makes most of the knowledge they get from books almost surface level.

To be able to comprehend anything, one has to define their own reading system as well as read with the intention of getting a full understanding of what is being conveyed by the author.

Failing to understand a book is one of the many reasons why people forget what they read quickly.

without understanding, you basically won’t get the fundamentals of whatever you read.

Therefore a good practice is actually taking time to understand what you read.

Comprehension is not always easy but it’s better to try and move toward it than neglect it.

Because if you do so, the reading would have all been pointless. To save yourself some time, make sure you spend time engaged on your reading material.

Become an active reader and ensure that you read without to much distraction.

This way you can pay attention to important things necessary for your understanding.

Poor reading techniques

The way you read books has a significant impact on your level of understanding as well as your level of recollection.

Most people employ reading methods that are simply ineffective. This then causes comprehension problems which eventually branch out to things like the inability to remember what one has read.

Some reading techniques like skimming and speed reading can be an effective way to scan through text and finish reading a book faster…

However, when it comes to comprehension you need to take a more relaxed approach.

Scanning or skimming though a book can certainly help you get a good idea of what it’s about …but it’s not really an effective way of going about reading for understanding.

To understand what you’re reading you need to take to time to grasp the material being read and form personal generalisations in your mind.

This is a great way to familiarise the material and break it down to the level of your own understanding.

Which means it will be easier for you to recall seeing as you have the material mentally generalised to your understanding.

Reading complex material

Sometimes it’s not always your fault when you forget what you read. Sometimes what you read might just be difficult to grasp and comprehend.

Certain subjects and topics are harder and require a lot more effort from the reader.

Even with effort, it may be still difficult to get the hang of everything.

So don’t always blame yourself when you fail to remember what you had read.

For example, tough subjects like math are heavy and require mental energy and effort to properly understand.

In other situations, you may be simply overwhelmed by the amount of complexity revolving around certain concepts.

So don’t always blame your memory for coming up short.

You’re better off going back to read what you may have missed and try to generalise it and form your own understanding.


Another thing that causes many people to forget what they read is over-reading.

Your brain is muscle and can only be pushed so far.

Over reading can stress you out and you’d sooner or later find yourself unable to finish reading a book.

Those that push themselves to read for long hours usually have difficulty remembering everything that they read.

Over reading can easily become a waste of time if you don’t test your understanding.

Most university and college students usually find themselves battling it out with books when exams are close which causes stress and Over studying.

This has a negative impact on their overall performance.

Recalling things can prove difficult.

Not self-quizzing

If you don’t self quiz when you read things meant to be recalled then you’ll obviously find it hard to remember what you read.

You need to test your level of comprehension every time you read so you can exercise your memory and find any loop holes.

This is important for students and their studying too.

Use studying techniques that are effective and can help you easily test your knowledge and understanding.

Note taking is one effective way of going about this.

It’s even more effective when take notes based on your understanding and not just writing things down from the book word for word.

Not taking breaks

Breaks are essential for any activity that requires a lot of mental energy.

If you don’t take breaks as you study or read you’ll find it hard to remember everything you read.

At best you’ll only be able to recall what you’d read last… because your short term memory will provide you with that.

All in all, use 5 minute breaks to go through what you’ve read and understand it better.

This is also precisely the right moment to test your understanding.

Use your notes if you took any… because they can help you quiz yourself.

Articles You Should Definitely Read

Why does My Mind Drift When I Read?

How Do I Know If I’m A Good Reader?

Helpful Resources

6 Reasons Why You Forget What You Read – Nigerian Scholars

If You Forget As Fast As You Read, This Is For You – Better Humans

How Do I Stop Forgetting What I Learned So Quickly? – My Student Voices

How to Stop Forgetting What You Read – Scott H Young

Eight Tips To Remember What You Read – SharpBrains