Reading a college textbook effectively takes practice and should be approached differently than reading a novel, or website. Consider these tips to make the most of your reading time.

Boost Your Reading Skills

step one

Determine the purpose

Think about the purpose of the reading

Why has the teacher assigned the reading? What are you supposed to get out of it? Jot down your thoughts. Read prefaces and summaries to learn important details about the book. Look at the table of contents for information about the structure.

Decide why you are reading the particular selection and estimate its difficulty. Then plan to read at your most efficient rate in terms of these factors.

step two

Set yourself up for success

Strategy #1: Pick a location that is conducive to reading

Read sitting up with good light, and at a desk or table.  Keep background noise to a minimum. Give yourself a quiet environment so that you can concentrate on the text.

Strategy #2: Schedule time to read

By scheduling a time each week to do your reading for each class, you are more likely to complete the reading as if it were an assignment. Establish a reasonable goal for the reading, and a time limit for how long you will be working. Break long reading assignments into segments.

step three

Monitor your comprehension

When you finish a section, ask yourself, "What is the main idea in this section? Could I answer an exam question about this topic?"  When you do not understand the reading, slow down, and reread sections. Try to explain them to someone, or have someone else read the section and talk through it together.

Rate is determined primarily by the ability to comprehend. Read aggressively to answer key questions. Before you start, turn the title into a question and keep asking “What is the answer? What is the author saying?” Go in with a question; come out with an answer.

Strategy #1: Write as you read

Producing a study guide or set of notes from the reading can help to direct your thinking as you read. Write possible test questions. Make connections with information sources (like lecture, lab, other readings, etc.).

Strategy #2: Look for patterns

See the pattern in the author’s plan of writing. Before you begin non-fiction, spend a minute on a survey. Spot the central-thoughts and the author’s plan for developing it. The partial pre-comprehension will serve to speed you up and increase your understanding.

Strategy #3: Actively check your comprehension

In pressuring to read faster, do not skip or skim and miss the meaning. To make sure you are getting the ideas, stop at the end of each unit and make brief notes from memory. This form of self-recitation clarifies your understanding and helps make the ideas stick.

step four

Work to improve in all areas

Strategy #1: Improve your vocabulary

Strange words interfere with understanding. Since speed is a function of understanding, you will profit from a systematic attempt to increase your word knowledge.

Strategy #2: Increase your store of knowledge

Intelligent reading requires more than a mere knowledge of what the words mean. The more you know about a subject, the better and faster you can read about it.