Study Strategies for Reading

Are you struggling to keep up in your English classes? Do you find your reading habits negatively impacting other areas of study? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Reading strategies throughout all types of text are fundamental to succeeding in school, but can often be tricky to master.

Refining the skills below can not only help you excel in your English classes, but also assist in other subjects where reading is necessary. Let’s take a look…  

Preview the text

If you are assigned a section to read in a textbook, it’s important to do a quick pre-scan to prepare yourself for the information you are going to learn. This doesn’t mean read the entire text, just look for important text features. What are you looking for in this initial scan?

  • Note the bolded words, as they are important and highlighted for a reason. It will be helpful to look them up and understand them before you begin to read more carefully.

  • Look at the headings and subheadings to give yourself a preview of how the information will be structured. Textbooks are organized in a very purposeful way, to chunk similar and related information and to present the most significant concepts first. If you understand the format, the information will be easier to digest.  

  • Read through any review questions that may be provided at the end of the given section. If your teacher has provided unique questions on a separate worksheet or document, look through those to note what information you should be looking for. Such review questions, whether from the book itself or from your teacher, can help successfully guide your reading.

[RELATED: How to Stay Focused on Long Reading Passages]

Read and take notes with purpose

As you read, you should be taking notes on key information that will help you retain the content. Although note-taking may seem easy, there’s a fine line between taking too many notes and not taking enough. You don’t want to rewrite the entire text, but you don’t want to miss any important concepts. So, how do you know what to jot down?

  • Ask yourself questions as you read. What’s the main idea of the passage? Your skim through in the previous step should have given you some hints as to what it could be. Elements that are related to that main idea are important to take down as notes, while elements that are unrelated aren’t typically the things you need to write down (unless your teacher mentioned them separately).

  • Utilize your text features. If there is a numbered list in a textbook, it’s typically information that is important to learn (and, from a teacher’s perspective, is easily testable!). Timelines are also important. Although your teacher may not require you to memorize dates, knowing the progression of events is beneficial to your full understanding of them.

  • Consider a note-taking format that works best for you personally. Think about what type of learner you are. If you learn better by drawing, for example, make diagrams and pictures to help you remember the content. Consider using different colored pens and highlighters to distinguish information. Note-taking doesn’t have to be boring, and it should suit the person who is taking the notes.

Relook and review

Your work is not done when the last word of the text is read. To fully understand a text, you will need to go back through your notes (as well as the guided questions), and then do another quick scan of the text to ensure you understood all of the important concepts. If you’re going to be tested on specific areas of the content, it may be necessary to recall certain details or facts, which will be difficult if you only give the text one read. What steps should you take after you finish your initial read?

  • Is there a spot in the text you struggled with most? Be sure to go back and reread that section carefully. If some parts aren’t making sense, you may need to do some further research, whether it’s in the text or online, to be sure you’re understanding the concepts correctly.

  • Are you going to be tested on this information? If so, you’ll likely need to make flashcards or some other type of study device to help you retain the key ideas. These study resources you create should come from the notes you took as you were reading.

  • Summarize the main point of the text, either in paper or even just in your head. In less than three sentences, you should be able to report what the text is about. If you can successfully do that, you likely have a solid understanding of what you’ve read. If not, you may need to repeat this last step.

If you decide you need further help with reading strategies, consider reading tutoring with an expert who can assist you personally.

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