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What is your study programme?

Assimilating information

Last modified on 29-07-2022 09:29
If you simply read a text, you will already have forgotten 80% of it by the following day. What techniques can you use to ensure that you remember the text as effectively as possible?
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Underlining or highlighting

Underlining or highlighting of texts is a popular technique among students. The technique works well: the text immediately jumps out at you. However, this technique does have a downside: you start highlighting, realise that the next part is important too, and before you know it everything is yellow. So, time pressure also has an impact on this technique. Often, students either highlight everything or nothing more at all. To revise, you also have to go through all the material again and, not only that, it is a passive form of revision.

Use this technique effectively by skim reading (see the page on smart reading). Read the paragraph or (sub)section first and then decide which words you think are important enough to highlight. The advantage of this is that you are also reading actively from the outset.


You can take notes in the margin of your book. This allows you to analyse the text and create structure. Indicate, for example, where a definition is or where examples are given. This technique also works well in combination with the other techniques. Here again, you should read the paragraph or (sub)section first before you make a note in the margin.


If you have to learn a lot of facts, making flashcards can be helpful. You can make the cards yourself, putting the question on one side and the answer on the other. There are digital variants too, such as Anki or Flashcards.


A summary is a great way of assimilating the material, especially if you can rewrite the material in your own words. Effectively, there is only one disadvantage to producing a summary: it is very time consuming. Many students run out of time, especially if they start making a summary too late. So, if you want to use this technique, make sure you set aside enough time to complete the summary. And make sure you use your own words, otherwise all you are doing is copying.

Sometimes you can also obtain or buy a summary from another student, but it’s far better to process the material yourself than to consume it passively. 


You can make the study material into a diagram. What are the key concepts and how do they relate to each other? This is written or drawn in a schematic way. The advantage of this technique is that it forces you to extract the essence of the material. You can illustrate cause and effect very clearly in a diagram, for example. On the other hand, it is harder to represent details and definitions clearly in a diagram. 

Mind map

Another variation is the mind map. As with a diagram, this involves working with the essence of the material, only a mind map is even more visual than a diagram. The material is structured and visualised. It works on the basis of colour, key words, image and structure. A mind map is ‘brain friendly’ and easy to use. You can often summarise a chapter of a book or an article in a one-page mind map. A mind map illustrating the advantages of a mind map is shown below. You can create mind maps on paper, but there are also a lot of online programmes that will help you create great digital mind maps.

Een mindmap met daarin de voordelen van een mindmap.

Training courses and workshops

The UvA provides additional support for various topics through information meetings, workshops, training courses and groups. You can learn more about these by clicking on training courses and workshops.