How to Read for Comprehension

Three Methods:Using the SQ3R SystemAnnotating to Improve Reading ComprehensionUsing Other Reading Comprehension Strategies

Comprehending what you read is crucial for doing well in school and passing tests, but it is not always easy. One great way to improve your reading comprehension is to use the SQ3R system, which stands for survey, question, read, recite, and review. You can also annotate texts to keep your mind active as you read. There are also some other reading strategies that might help you such as defining new words as you read, limiting the amount of time you spend reading, and reading confusing passages out loud. With practice and patience, you can develop some effective strategies to improve your reading comprehension.

Method 1
Using the SQ3R System

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    Survey the text before you read. Previewing a text increases the chances that you will comprehend what you read, and it is really easy to do. Simply flip through the pages and look at the chapter title and subheadings. When you are finished, you will have a good sense of the main ideas that the chapter will cover.[1]
    • If the chapter includes an author summary, then you can read the summary as well.
    • You should also look at any charts, graphs, or other images as you survey the text.
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    Ask questions. Generating some questions to help guide your reading will help you to stay focused and it can also increase your comprehension of the text. Consider the topics you encountered in your survey of the text and use these to help you generate some questions about the reading.[2]
    • You can use who, what, when, where, and why to help you generate questions about the subheadings you encountered in your preview. For example, you could take the title of a subheading called “Reading Comprehension Strategies” and turn it into a question called “What are some effective reading comprehension strategies?”
    • Some instructors include reading questions for you to answer as you read. If you have been provided with a list of reading questions, then use these to help you stay focused as you read.
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    Read the text. Next, you will need to read the text and use your questions to help you stay focused. If you use your questions, highlight important information as you go, and take notes on what you have read, then you should only need to read the text once.[3]
    • Make sure that you read at your own pace and stop to take notes as needed.
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    Recite what you just read. It is important to stop after you finish a section and put what you just read into your own words. If you cannot do this after you have read a section, then you should reread that section again.[4]
    • Try to explain the material to a friend or write a brief summary of the material. Remember to explain it in your own words. Don’t simply repeat the wording you encountered.
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    Review the material. To keep the concepts that you have read about fresh in your mind, you will need to review it now and then. You do not need to reread the whole text, but you do need to go over what you underlined and review any notes that you took as well.[5]
    • Try to review what you read about once or twice per week leading up to an exam. This will help to ensure that you retain the information and that you will not need to reread the whole text before an exam.

Method 2
Annotating to Improve Reading Comprehension

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    Highlight important words and phrases. Annotating is a way to keep your mind active as you read. Highlighting or underlining important words and phrases can help you to retain more of what you read and it will also make it easier to go back to find important passages later on. Make sure that you always read with a highlighter and pencil on hand.[6]
    • Underline or highlight things that are confusing, interesting, important, or that you want to ask questions about in class.
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    Write in the margins. Writing in the margins can help you to draw connections between concepts and register your reactions to the text.[7] Keep a pen handy at all times and jot down your ideas and questions in the spaces next to the text.
    • You can write whatever you want in the margins. For example, you can sum up your reactions to passages by using words like, “interesting” or “confusing.”
    • You can also use sticky notes to expand on your annotations.[8] This is a good option if you have a lot to say about what you have just read or if you cannot write in the text, such as because it is a library book or rental.
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    Review your annotations. After you finish annotating a text, go back over your annotations and read through them.[9] As you do so, write any questions that you have about your annotations or anything that you’d like to bring up in class.[10]
    • For example, if you underlined something because it does not make sense, then you might turn it into a question, such as “How does annotating help you to retain more of what you read?” For simple questions, you can search for an answer to this question on your own. For more complex questions, you can ask your instructor to clarify for you.

Method 3
Using Other Reading Comprehension Strategies

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    Connect the reading to something familiar. Drawing connections between a reading and something that is familiar to you can also help you to retain more of the information.[11] Try to draw connections between your existing knowledge and new concepts as you read.
    • For example, if you are reading about a new concept in a biology textbook, try to relate it to a concept that you already understand.
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    Define new words as you read. Another way to improve your reading comprehension is to look up words that are unfamiliar to you.[12] If you do not understand a word, then it can make an entire sentence confusing. Take a moment to look up new words as you read.
    • Try keeping a vocabulary journal where you record and define any words that are unfamiliar to you.
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    Complete the reading in small chunks. You can also improve your reading comprehension by reading a text in smaller chunks and giving yourself breaks. For example, you could follow the Pomodoro system suggestion to take a quick break every 25 minutes.[13] Set a timer for 25 minutes, read until it goes off, and then take a five minute break.
    • Another option is to set a goal for how many pages you want to read. You could set a goal to read 10 pages and then give yourself a five minute break after you have done that.
    • Try getting up and walking around or stretching for a few minutes during your breaks. You can also check your social media profile, watch a short video, or look up something that has been on your mind.
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    Try reading out loud. Reading out loud is an effective strategy for teaching literacy skills to children. Children can understand more complex stories and information when they hear it than when they read it silently.[14] Reading out loud is also extremely helpful for editing your writing.[15] Therefore, reading a text out loud may help you to make connections, understand a difficult text, and retain more of what you read.
    • You don’t have to read the entire text out loud, but reading certain passages out loud may be helpful. For example, if a passage is confusing, or if you are having trouble staying focused, then reading out loud for a few paragraphs may help.

Article Info

Categories: Reading and Comprehension Skills | Improving Reading Skills