Reading Strategies

Text books are a major source of information in college courses.

Don't be surprised if your instructor doesn't give specific reading assignments but simply indicates the chapters to be covered on each test. It becomes your responsibility to complete the assigned reading materials.

College texts are often very time consuming to read, so plan accordingly. Complete your reading several days prior to the exam so the last few days can be spent studying.

  • Develop a reading schedule. You may want to read each text two or three times a week. You will remember more in shorter, more frequent study sessions.
  • As you read, ask yourself, "What is most important in this paragraph?" and then underline or highlight that information, or take notes. If you are having trouble identifying important points it may help to turn the bold type subject headings into questions and then look for the answers.
  • To help you remember what you have read, pause occasionally and mentally summarize the material you have just covered. This internal rehearsal will help you hold the information in your memory.
  • There are a number of different text reading systems. These include PQRST, SQ3R, and SQ4R. The element all of these systems have in common is that you cover the same material a number of times.
  • A good learning technique involves 3/5 index cards. Every time you come across a word in your text that might appear on a test, write the word and the phrase it is in and page number on one side of the card and the definition on the other side. Make a set of cards for each text and then always carry a set with you for quick reviews. You can also use the note cards for terms from class lectures.
  • Finally, remember that learning takes place through reinforcement and review. No one can remember a text by simply reading it once.

Reading is a three-part process

College will require more extensive reading compared to high school. You may be required to read numerous chapters a week, and that's just for one class! Reading a textbook for classes is very different from reading for pleasure and requires that you read with a purpose.

Before you read: preview, question, outline

  • Preview the reading and focus on:
    • Chapter title
    • Introduction
    • Major headings
    • Bold or italicized words
    • Graphics (pictures, charts, etc.)
    • Chapter summary
  • Write down questions you have before you start reading.
  • Make an outline using chapter titles and bold headings.

While you read: focus, flag answers

  • Make sure your environment is distratction-free.
  • Change up your environment (study math in the kitchen, science in the living room, etc.)
  • Limit reading sessions to realistic amounts of time.
  • Schedule breaks between sessions.
  • Set goals for yourself (reward yourself when an enjoyable activity for 10-15 minutes every hour).
  • Pause frequently to summarize and restate ideas.
  • Flag answers to questions you wrote down (highlight, underline, write comments or fill in your outline - try to only mark up about 10% of the text).

After you read: recite, reivew, review again

  • Write a brief summary of what you read.
  • Talk to yourself or someone else about what you have read. Restate the information in your own words.
  • Look at an underlined point, then put the book down and start talking about it.
  • Review within 24 hours of reading to move information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
  • Review again. This can be a short review but it will save time during exams. Reviews keep neural pathways open and make informaiton easier to recall.