How Bill Gates reads 50 books per year (and remembers what he learns)

Several recent studies have found that working smarter, not harder, is the key to academic success.

However, for a variety of reasons, students often enter college with little knowledge of scientifically backed study strategies.

An avid lifelong learner himself, Bill Gates knows a thing or two about studying. He reportedly reads roughly 50 books per year, or nearly one per week, and takes steps to ensure that he actually absorbs all the material he's read. In a recent article for Inc. magazine, Justin Bariso rounds up Gates' four rules for reading:

1: Take notes. The best way to learn is to "attach" new information to the knowledge you already have, Gates says. He takes notes while reading, which helps him ensure that he's reflecting on the material. Taking notes by hand has also been found to learning and memorization in at least one study.

2: Finish the entire book. Gates says that he never leaves a book half-finished. If you don't read the full text, you could miss important points or misunderstand the author.

Also see: The role of the library in a digital age

3: Make yourself comfortable. Gates hasn't joined the e-reader trend, saying he still prefers to read in print. According to Bariso, the takeaway is that you should read in whatever way makes you most comfortable. Even audiobooks—which some people think of as "cheating"—can provide extra context that helps listeners better understand certain types of texts.

4: Read for at least an hour at a time. When you only have five minutes, reach for a magazine, Gates suggests. But for serious reading, you should dedicate at least an hour to your book, he argues. His suggestions align with recent research finding that switching quickly between tasks reduces performance on those tasks (Bariso, Inc., 11/21).

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