Download PDF Break It Down!:Boost Your College Reading Comprehension

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New college students likely will find that professors load them up with more reading than they have been assigned in the past, and many of those assignments will be a challenge. At this level, it will no longer suffice to simple read and regurgitate material. Assigned reading in college courses tends to vary widely. College-level reading assignments often veer toward the technical — economics texts loaded with unfamiliar jargon, biology primers stuffed with facts, advanced math books filled with formulas.

History books and literature might seem easier tasks, but these seemingly simple reading assignments can pose their own challenges. Even if the writing style is easy to digest, authors tend to assume a fundamental familiarity with language and life that college students might or might not possess.

The wide array of writing styles requires students to constantly adapt their attitudes and approaches toward reading. With a full course load, students may quickly find that their reading assignments are too demanding for the leisurely pace they might have grown accustomed to in the past. That means they will need to read quickly.


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At the same time, college reading material often is too dense to simply breeze through — good luck absorbing a chemistry text at a glance. The one-two punch of high volumes and difficult material means students should have a strategy for absorbing difficult material quickly. Successful college students learn how to read efficiently. Among the useful approaches are prereading, astute note-taking and an ability to speed or slow their pace of reading as they peruse different types of material. So how can students get the most of their limited time in order to read and retain challenging, college-level texts?

What do you already know about it? Why has the instructor assigned this reading now? Mark this text with brackets or an asterisk.

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Pay close attention to the introduction and opening paragraphs, which often reveal this information. As you peruse a textbook, write queries in the margins, then answer those questions in a separate notebook. This approach helps to maintain concentration; while reading, consider whether the text answers each question. Read a paragraph, then write a sentence summarizing the main point that paragraph conveys.

Try explaining aloud what you have been studying. This exercise will move the material from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. It also will let you know if you understand the material. If an assignment seems especially daunting, break it into smaller, more manageable pieces. And when your attention wanders, stand up and take a quick break. After slogging through a difficult assignment, reward yourself with a break — have a snack or a chat with a friend.

Reading the same passage over and over also is an inefficient use of time. By concentrating more deeply, you can absorb information the first time, without rereading. Reading dense, difficult material is hard work. Understand that reality, and manage your time accordingly. Few students can read effectively for hours at a time, so schedule regular breaks.

So the teacher would wind up reading aloud to the class. If students get frustrated and they just give up, it affects their confidence and their self-esteem. Practicing makes you better.

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There are a few. Avoidance of reading is a big problem. Some of it occasionally has to do with a learning disability. Some of it has to do with attention span. Reading is a skill you build up over time. Another one is that students will see unfamiliar words, and they just skip over them without looking up the words. They admit it. Attitude is very important. Break it up into chunks. Take a break — get up and move around every few minutes. Not everything is going to be fun. Keep your ultimate goal in mind. Too many students want to highlight.

Highlighting is OK, but it can be coloring after a while. Writing a little summary in the margin is much more effective because it forces you to put the material in your own words. Midway through a semester, students are likely to feel overwhelmed. Four or five professors at a time may load a student up with reading. This is when the ability to read efficiently becomes crucial. Knowing how to consume textbooks is a key skill. First, learn the magic of devoting a few minutes to prereading. In this tried-and-true approach , three to five minutes are first spent looking over a textbook chapter before the student really digs in, Green says.

Skim through the reading material, absorbing titles and headings and making note of any boldfaced words and charts or other graphics. If there are no subtitles, read the first and last paragraphs. This short exercise can help a person know what to expect from the material and therefore boosts comprehension and retention.

After all, textbooks are written to convey information, not to entertain. Students should start with the study questions at the end of the chapter and see how many they can answer. After that, read the conclusion, then proceed upward through the chapter to the introduction. While reading every word aloud is a waste of time, when a student is stuck on a difficult passage, reading experts insist that reading out loud can help with getting unstuck.

Try to find the thesis or main point of the passage. Refer back to your notes if need be. Mapping works great for both short reading passages and longer texts as well. Mapping should only take a couple of minutes for a short passage, and maybe a bit more for a longer or more detailed text.

Did your parent plop you on your bike seat, give you a push, and watch you cruise effortlessly down the sidewalk?

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Reading, just like anything else, is about practice over a long period of time. Reading in your spare time, spending even just 10 minutes with a book before bed, will pay off greatly in the long run. We call this spaced repetition. Anyone can put the pedal to the metal, but how long can you do it? Not many can stick with a small habit for long enough to make a difference. Treat it like a juicy rumor.

Use it as a guide.

13 Ways You Can Improve Your Reading Comprehension - Study

Ever put your head down, jump into your reading assignment, power through, and have no idea what you just read? There is: skimming.


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Your brain needs to focus on understanding, not flying blind through your reading. Why would you? Skimming is just about the easiest method you can use to improve reading comprehension today. We know printing out your assignments onto actual paper rather than reading from a computer screen or a tablet can be a pain. Repurpose that mechanism and put your visualizing skills to good use. Envision the characters, the setting, and the action as a movie taking place in your mind. Remember to hit the pause button and stop once in awhile to see the whole scene, which will help you better make out those fuzzy details.

Believe it or not, this works for both fiction and nonfiction. Having difficulty getting through a particularly dry non-fiction passage? Try turning some of the concepts into characters.

Break It Down!: Boost Your College Reading Comprehension

Treat the text as a play, with each concept having its own personality and motivations just like a character would. Bitten off way more than you can chew? This begins with reading in a pressure-free environment without expectations for yourself. B reathe. R efocus. B egin again.

This way, you can complete your assignments without getting frustrated or giving up. Pro tip: Talking through a problem is one of the best ways to solve it. Asking questions while reading will keep you engaged.

The best way to do this is to make use of annotations, keeping track of questions and insights you have as you read. This reading technique keeps you actively engaged and able to stay on task as you complete each assignment. How do we switch from passive to active reading?