There are ways to read, and the right way for a given occasion depends on your purposes. Let’s take a look at how you should read your work with your exams in mind!
SPEED READING is a useful technique-especially since it also tends to improve reading-comprehension. There are many popular books on this topic available in the shops. Most of them are pretty good and, if you think you might really work at it, it’s worth a small investment in any of the books that you fancy.
More important, however, is APPROPRIATE READING –i.e. not just speed but the appropriate way for what you want to achieve. (For example, you wouldn’t gain much by skimming the ‘highlights’ of a beautiful poem, or by lingering over the literary nuances of a technical report.)
And if you’re under the same time pressure as most of us nowadays, you’ll need to be able to read EFFICIENTLY. So ask yourself some ‘APPROPRIATE’ questions:
– ARE YOU READY TO GET GENERAL IDEAS? In that case skimming may be sufficient. If it is you needn’t spend any more time than that.
– DO YOU NEED TO LOCATE SPECIFIC FACTS? If you can manage this well enough through skimming OK. Otherwise skim first to find out where things are, and then go back with care in the areas you need.
– DO YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE MATERIAL IN DEPTH? Skim first to get the overall picture. Then go back. Re-read at a moderate pace. Stop and analyse frequently. Make notes summarising each point:
a) so that you’ll have a useful record for revision
b) to prove that you do understand by being able to summarise in your own words
c) to begin imprinting the information in your Long Term Memory. (see our previous blog on Long and Short Term Memory)
– ARE YOU READING MERELY FOR ENJOYEMENT? Lovely. Take any approach that pleases you.
You’ll have noticed the emphasis on SKIMMIMG. This is necessary if you want to read EFFICIENTLY and save time. (It gives an overall picture into which details can fit so that they’ll be easier to COMPREHEND AND RECALL.) People who have to read a lot all the time not only SKIM but also look at INTRODUCTIONS and CONCLUSIONS before reading the rest of an article or a book. This gives them a gist of the work quickly. It saves time in several ways-but mainly because they can avoid reading things which aren’t relevant to what they’re looking for.
The most important part of efficient reading however is CONCENTRATION. One of the hazards of reading slowly is that it leaves plenty of time for MIND-WANDERING (the greatest enemy to study-especially when the material to be learned is not particularly interesting to you.) SKIMMING helps to reduce this tendency by getting you more quickly involved. If mind-wandering (when you read) is a general habit of yours, you should try considering buying a book on speed reading and trying to adopt its methods.
It’s also worth mentioning that research indicates that normally we remember less of what we read than we remember of things that we hear, see or do. So just because you’ve read something (even if it seemed perfectly clear to you at the time) this doesn’t mean that you’ve safely stored it in your memory and will be able to recall it later on. Moreover, you can suffer from information OVERLOAD while reading just as easily as during a class.
On the other hand, the obvious advantage of reading is that you can go back over things that aren’t clear. An even bigger advantage is that reading gives you the opportunity to TAKE NOTES AT YOUR OWN PACE. In other words, YOU CAN AND SHOULD TAKE NOTES WHILE READING. And you should ORGANISE those notes intelligently as you go.
So be advised-if you do it wisely, you can learn as much-or more-from reading than you can from a class.
In the next blog we will show you the importance of a STUDY BUDDY to cut your workload in HALF!!
(adapted from UCC Study Guide)