No matter what degree program you are pursuing, as a college student you'll need to know how to retain a large amount of reading material. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that reading scores for adults dropped by 10 percent over a ten-year period, particularly among well-educated groups (NCES, 2007). Avoid becoming another statistic by using these tips to ensure your reading comprehension is exceptional. Here are some quick tips on how to improve your reading comprehension:
When and Where To Read
The time of day impacts your ability to dissect and analyze the text.
- Read earlier in the day rather than at night, especially if you're reviewing a textbook. You retain less information when you're tired, so pore over your books when you're most awake.
- Read for 30 to 40 minutes, then take a break. Reading in short intervals will give you time to reflect on the material. You'll be more focused when you return to it.
- Read in a place where you can concentrate. Television or other distractions will make it difficult for you to digest the reading material.
How To Effectively Read
To get a firm grasp on the key ideas of your reading material, consider the following tips:
- Skim over a section of your textbook to get an idea of what it's about. Look at bold, italicized, or underlined material as the most important points. Always read introductions and summaries. Then, re-read the content in entirety. Highlight key passages for future reference.
- Identify your learning objectives. This will help you master the concepts, as explaining them to yourself requires deeper thinking. If you're not sure what the main objective is, re-read, talk to a friend, or ask your instructor for help.
- Write down any questions about the material or words that you don't know so you can review them later to gain a deeper understanding.
- Review the material a few times each week. The more you review, the greater the chances you'll remember important concepts come test time. A study found that self-testing increased the likelihood that students retained information by nine percent (Roediger et al, 2011)
This method isn't for everyone, but if you feel confident in your ability, attempting speed reading could improve your comprehension while saving time.
- Try to get an understanding of the main concepts rather than focusing on each word.
- Test yourself after each paragraph, page, or chapter to see what you assimilated. Write down a few questions to ask yourself later.
- Practice working on your pace and comprehension by reading newspaper and magazine articles with straightforward content, so you won’t be hindered as a beginner.