Making light of long readings

by Daniel Christianson

As the semester creeps closer to its end, many students, myself included, have waded into larger books and writings for final assignments. “Daniel,” you may say, “my reading is due tomorrow and I still have sports practice and work! How am I supposed to get it done on time?” The following reading strategies can help you read and comprehend longer assignments.

Learn to recognize key points

When working through a reading assignment, one way I keep my mind active is to ask the simple question: “How does the apply to the class?” Try this. And if what you’re currently reading doesn’t apply, then you can speed through it to get to the parts that do. When you read material that clearly connects, take your time to absorb the information. This also helps vary your reading speed which in turn keeps you engaged and active. Often, books will indicate their primary ideas in bolded, highlighted, or underlined sentences. Pay attention to these indicators and, if possible, highlight or bookmark them for future reference. Another way a writer will get their point across is by repeating their point several times in multiple ways. If it feels like what you’re reading is repetitive, you can probably read faster to get to the next key point. But you can also know that point was important!

Build a framework of the chapter

By reflecting on a larger section of writing, you make it easier for your future self to sum up what it said. This active analysis of past readings builds on the key points you identified in the last step. Building a framework simply involves listing the key points of a chapter. In practice, this can help when reviewing because you are able to easily see what a chapter was trying to get across in a glance. This technique has been helpful for me when I have large, historical readings that I need to be able to summarize. It helps me know the overall points without getting dragged down into every detail.

Avoid constant skimming

Skimming can often result in your not knowing the text as well as you should, and it can encourage you to put your assignments off for the last minute. Professors can give large reading assignments expecting you to skim, but this is an exception rather than a rule. One idea I work with when struggling with a particularly difficult reading assignment is that the professor wouldn’t have assigned the reading if they didn’t think it was important and thought it would help me grow.

Overall, reading is one of my favorite things to do, even when it piles up. But the more I engage with it, the more I get out of it. So maybe the next time you aren’t enjoying your reading, try to take it as an opportunity to grow. Just being able to articulate how you feel about the reading and what you are getting from it are great skills to develop for the future.

Daniel is a sophomore from California majoring in business with a concentration in accounting. He likes crocheting, running, and capybaras.

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