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A Maryland University of National Distinction
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The Center for Student Achievement
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Reading Skills

Have you ever found yourself reading an assignment for class then completely forgetting what you just read?  It has happened to many of us but by making a few changes in your reading habits, you can improve your reading retention.  Here are some tips to help improve your reading comprehension:

  • Skim through the chapter before reading it.  Look at the text features such as the title, captions, pictures, diagrams, bold print, etc.  Also look at the introduction and chapter summary. This will help you estimate the time it will take to read the chapter and how to budget that time accordingly.
  • Read early in the day instead of late at night.  You will be able to concentrate and retain more information when you are wide awake rather than when you are tired. It's also a good idea to read in between classes.
  • Read for short periods of time instead of one long sitting.  Read for about 35-40 minutes then take a short break.  This will enable you to focus on the material and increase concentration.
  • Find a quiet area to read.  Usually residence halls or dorm lounges are not the best places to read.  There are too many distractions that are not beneficial for quality reading.  The library or study lounges on campus are great places to get reading and other work completed.
  • Monitor your own comprehension.  Every once in a while ask yourself what you have learned or what the section you just read was about.  If you are unable to answer then re-read the selection or ask a classmate or the professor.  

Are you a student who highlights what you read?  This is sometimes a helpful tool but you must be careful because always highlighting what you read may cause you to become a passive reader.  Passive readers are continually re-reading the highlighted material and may have the tendency to become lazy readers, just highlighting a majority of the text.  Therefore when you go back to your reading, you may not know what they key points were of that selection. 

Are you a student who reads the material hours at a time just to get it done?  Even though you think you are saving time by getting it all out of the way at once, you are actually hurting yourself in the long run.  When you read it all at once you become a lazy reader and develop a lower retention of the material.  Instead of really focusing your attention on the critical points, you are more likely to day dream or space out. 

Use the SQ3R Method:

  • Survey: Look over the reading selection and get an idea of what it is about by looking at the headings, pictures, and summary
  • Question: Ask yourself, “What is this selection about?” and also look for examples that support the author’s point in the selection
  • Read: Now you can read the material.  Jot down any questions that you may have as well as important vocabulary words and concepts.  Continue asking yourself questions to make sure you understand what you are reading.
  • Review: Try to review a couple times a week.  By reviewing, you will be able to see the big picture of the main ideas introduced.  The more you review the material, the better your understanding will be of that topic.
  • Recite:  The best way to practice the material you are reviewing is by saying it out loud.  This technique helps because you are using both sides of your brain. 

Design Your own Question Notes:

  • Divide your paper so you have questions in the left column and answers in the right.
  • Skim through the reading and create questions that you think could be on the test from the chapter headings.
  • Look for words that are in bold print, such as terms.  Make sure that you provide an example with the term, not just its definition.  This will help you learn the material, not just memorize it.
  • Go through the material again and answer your questions. 

Five Thinking Strategies of Good Readers:

  1. Predict- Good readers make predictions about events, outcomes, and conclusions. 
  2. Picture- Form images in your head from the words and ideas on the page that will help you relate to the material.
  3. Relate- Draw comparisons between your existing knowledge to the new information you are reading.
  4. Monitor- Check for your understanding of the text while you read by keeping a summary of the new information as it is presented to you.
  5. Correct gaps in understanding- If you find gaps in your comprehension of what you are reading, do not just keep reading.  Stop and resolve what the problem is by rereading a sentence or looking back to a previous section for further clarification. 


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