Reading is a foundational learning activity for college-level courses. Assigned readings prepare you for taking notes during lectures and provide you with additional examples and detail that might not be covered in class.  Also, according to research, readings are the second most frequent source of exam questions (Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007).  

Reading a college textbook effectively takes practice and should be approached differently than reading a novel, comic book, magazine, or website. Becoming an effective reader goes beyond completing the reading in full or highlighting text.  There are a variety of strategies you can use to read effectively and retain the information you read.

Consider the ideas below!


  • Schedule time to read. Reading is an easy thing to put off because there is often no exact due date.  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.  Producing a study guide or set of notes from the reading can help to direct your thinking as you read.  
  • Set yourself up for success.  Pick a location that is conducive to reading.  Establish a reasonable goal for the reading, and a time limit for how long you’ll be working. These techniques make reading feel manageable and make it easier to get started and finish reading.  
  • Choose and use a specific reading strategy.  There are many strategies that will help you actively read and retain information (PRR or SQ3R – see the handouts and videos).  By consciously choosing a way to approach your reading, you can begin the first step of exam preparation or essay writing.  Remember: good readers make stronger writers.
  • 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?" Questions at the end of chapters are particularly good for focusing your attention and for assessing your comprehension. If you are having difficulty recalling information or answering questions about the text, search back through the text and look for key points and answers. Self-correction techniques like revisiting the text are essential to assessing your comprehension and are a hallmark technique of advanced readers (Caverly & Orlando, 1991).
  • Take notes as you read. Whether they’re annotations in the margins of the book, or notes on a separate piece of paper. Engage with the reading through your notes – ask questions, answer questions, make connections, and think about how these ideas integrate with other information sources (like lecture, lab, other readings, etc.)

Curious to learn more? Check out our Reading video, and hear what we have to say!

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