Reading is something we learn as a child. Difficult to begin with, but you soon learn to follow along each line, understanding each word, each sentence, each paragraph until you have built up an understanding of the whole story. But that isn’t always the most efficient way to read academic texts. You won’t be able to memorise each set textbook for your exam, so you have to find a way to condense that knowledge into something you hold in your mind.
Don’t believe any of those myths about reading, like you have to laboriously read every word; the quicker you read the less you understand; don’t skip sections or read out of sequence; and you only need to read something once. Science has shown these all to be false. So, break free of all those misconceptions and increase the speed and efficiency of your reading, stop feeling like you are overwhelmed by the texts. And look out for the many tools and apps that you can use to test your reading speed and make a game of getting even faster.
If you pick up any textbook or course booklet, you will see that a lot has been done to make it easier to use. You have unit and chapter headings and many subheadings that lead you through the various topics, as well as bold and highlighted words.
Here are some tips for easily assimilating your course text, so that you can make the most of your reading:
- Skim the surface before you dive in – get an idea of the shape of the course by reading the index pages and then flicking through the whole book, page by page, so that you see how it all fits together. This will act as a map so that you can make a picture of all that you are learning to piece the concepts into a cohesive whole.
- Questions aid comprehension – note down any questions that are raised by the text. They will indicate areas that you might need to investigate further and also help to make the material more memorable.
- Look for bold or highlighted text – these indicate the key concepts you will be required to recognise and know for examination or assessments.
- Test yourself – after reading a section, ask yourself what it was about. Try to recall the important ideas and how they fit into the wider framework of the course.
- Refresh and review – reread chapter introductions and summaries from time to time, to refresh the content you’ve learned and help it to stay in your memory.