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Study Tips: Reading Technique Part 1

Updated on August 31, 2011

Sometimes it surprises me as a student how little reading is utilized by my classmates. They complain about their scores on tests or misunderstandings about this or that in the class while freely admitting that they’ve never opened their text book, and have never even glanced at their syllabus. Some students I talk to never even bought the text book for the class. Now I can understand this issue in part, after all, every student knows that text books are a big scam. They are overpriced and hard to acquire, but they are also your best friend if you are struggling in class.

Many students are overwhelmed when they reach the college level and are told they must read fifty pages a week or more, and all for just one class! Students going full time might have hundreds of pages they need to get read every week. And all of this is made more difficult by a society that drills into children that only geeks read; that homework is the most miserable thing on earth and who really needs to turn it in anyway? I find this a slightly pitiable mindset. After all, students are paying thousands of dollars every semester to learn right? So to help people who want to re-learn how to study and get the most out of their time and money here is a list of the top 10 ways to read your text effectively.

1. The syllabus

I can’t say this enough, READ YOUR SYLLABUS! The teachers give out their syllabus for a reason. It should be kept in your bag all term. It almost always contains all test dates, a schedule of material that will be covered. It also contains how your teacher will be grading you so use it to keep track of your points. It contains his contact information and office hours. Read it a few times a term to prevent any unpleasant surprises (such as 10pg papers due during spring break!).

2. Pre-class reading

Pre-class reading is important on many levels. First, it is the first look at your new information. If you first see new information in class you will be less likely to notice if you don’t understand something. It is important to realize that class is where you go to ask questions and have information built on and clarified. By reading the chapter once through before class you will be building on old information when you cover the chapter in lecture. Unfortunately, practice makes perfect when it comes to speed reading. Luckily, the first time you read the chapter you should not strive to understand every concept, but rather you should just be familiarizing yourself with what your teacher will cover. The next pointers cover techniques to making the most of your reading. 

3. Scanning the text

An effective and time efficient way to quickly cover material is the scanning method. Scanning can be utilized when a student lacks time to read the whole chapter. When a student scans a text they should be looking for subheadings; these are usually bolded and easy to find. At each subheading in your text you should read the heading carefully and cover the first few sentences just under it. These usually give the main idea or definition of the subheading. Students should also read any other bold faced terms or definitions that might appear in the text or on the side of the page. Read any subheading summary. Finally, the scan should end with reading the summary at the end of the chapter.

4. Highlighting effectively

Now many students make mistakes here. We get overwhelmed by what seems like an infinite amount of relevant knowledge and end up highlighting the whole book, which is beside the point of highlighting. Highlighters should be used to bring important information to your immediate attention. I often use it to highlight names, the first sentences under a subheading, and definitions. These are the little, quick things that a student can cover that require a little more repetition before most people will remember them.

5. Taking outside notes

The nice thing about taking notes from your book is that you can use it to compare information. Notes are used to compare what the teacher is telling you to what is in your book. The idea is that if it is in both your lecture and your book, then it’s going to be on the test. The same is true for things that the teacher tells you that does not show up in your text; if a teacher goes out of their way to tell you something then they probably think it’s pretty important. You can take notes before or after class from your book. If you do it before class then you can compare during class, and if you take them after you can compare while reading.


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    • sdy53 profile image

      sdy53 7 years ago

      Any student/reader would be very effectively served to adhere to the guidelines you have promulgated here. I can't help but part with a quip: Best way to keep a secret from a student is to put it in your syllabus:) At the end of the semester, I still have kiddos asking me "when are your office hours sir?"