Reading

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading is all about information. It’s not about the number of words you read, but the amount of value you extract from them. The key to improved reading comprehension isn’t moving your eyes across a page more quickly. It’s about creating a mental framework that helps you process words and ideas.

With a bit of practice, anyone can read faster and more productively. The steps outlined below will help you to extract the maximum amount of information in the least amount of time.

The Pre-Reading survey

Nearly all speed reading courses recommend doing a pre-reading survey. The purpose is to gain a better understanding of the content and structure of the material. You’d be amazed how often people read through an entire book, only to realize that the information they need isn’t there. Pre-reading will make your reading more efficient by creating a mental map.

Start by reading the table of contents and the first page of the introduction. Then flip quickly through the material, reading only chapter titles, headings, and bold face print. Don’t worry about remembering anything specific, it’s more important to get a general impression.

The entire process should take less than 5 minutes. Afterwards you’ll know the layout of the book and the location of different topics. If you’re only interested in one particular section, you now know where to find it.

Define Your Purpose

Now that you have a general grasp of the material, you need to define a purpose. What information are you hoping to gain? This sounds like a simple question, but sometimes it isn’t. Different readers can have drastically different objectives. If you don’t define a purpose, it’s likely you’ll get bogged down by unimportant sections or ignore crucial ones. By clarifying what you need to know, you’ll be able to distinguish the important from the irrelevant and allocate your attention accordingly.

Create questions the reading should answer

In addition to a general purpose, it’s also helpful to write down specific questions. This focuses your mind on a set of objectives and gives you a way to measure comprehension. By writing down questions, you create a set of mental cues. Whenever you spot an important keyword in the text, you’ll become aware of the question it relates to and your mind will start looking for an answer.

Take notes or highlight important concepts

One of the best ways to embed something in your memory is to write it down. When you read an important point, make a note of it on a separate piece of paper, inside the margin, or use a highlighter. This will help you remember what you read and make the important sections easy to find when you review the text.

The post-reading review

After you finish reading, you need to determine what you learned. Did you achieve your purpose? Try to answer the questions you created beforehand. If you aren’t able to answer them, go back and look for answers near your notes. This process will solidify the knowledge in your mind and give you better recall. You’ll know what you learned, what you didn’t, and whether or not you need to go deeper into the text or look for other sources.

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  • http://www.arch-image.com Laurent Brixius

    Hi John,

    I would like to add one tip to your great list to improve our reading experience.

    Just before defining my purpose for reading, I summarize what I already know about the subject.

    This way I have a more critical point of view on the content and I’m less influenced by the vision of the author. It’s often a good idea to cross-reference with other sources.

    • Kevinphan7896

      What happens when you don’t know Anything about it?

      • tam

        research it

  • Cidinho

    Thank you for this post.

    The book I read before seeing this post was the first I made a pre-reading survey, and it really helps.

    I’ll try next writing down questions and answer then after-reading, it must be great, also.

    Thank you again.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Laurent,

    I agree, establishing what you know and what you don’t know is critical to absorbing new information. That point reminds me of my article on metacognition.

  • http://www.thelinguist.blogs.com Steve Kaufmann

    I must say that I read for enjoyment. I want to discover what a book has to offer. I no more do a pre-reading survey than I would read a description of a walk through a forest before I actually walk through the forest.I have no goals in reading other than the desire to learn what is in the book.

    It does not take me long into the book to discover whether the book is to my liking. If it is is not, the pages start to fly. An enjoyable book is a long and enjoyable indulgence. A poor book is a 30 minute skim.

    To me the key is reading skill, which is just like the strength and hiking technique needed for a walk through the forest. Generally this is aquired through practice. Walk a lot of trails and you will be a good hiker. Read a lot of books and you will be a good reader.

    Reading skill requires a sufficient vocabulary, sufficient background in the subject you are reading about, and the ability to read fairly quickly.

    In the latter regard, I believe that people who have trouble reading easily or quickly should take advantage of audio books and listen to material they are about to read, and then read that material. This will improve their reading confidence and increase their reading speed and enjoyment. Then the pre-reading and post-reading exercizes will be unnecessary.

    • RayMonDPiScEs

      pretty dumb advice.

  • Jack

    good one

  • Dunha

    For this purpose I recommend the book “How to Read a Book” (Authors: Adler and Doren). The book is really amazing. Read it!
    Only some hints that the book brings were related.

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  • http://www.darksociologist.com Dark Sociologist

    Hi John,

    I think the pre-reading survey is an interesting point. There is the meme being passed around about how we don’t actually need the letters in a word to be in the proper order for us to understand it (lkie tihs for eaxpmle), but our brain knows what it’s looking for. As long as we know what we are looking for, then the brain fills in the blanks and we can process information faster. :)

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Yes, I’ve actually seen that before. It’s amazing how well you can interpret those messed up words. I think the same phenomenon explains why speed reading is possible. You don’t have to mull over each word, you can absorb it instantly by looking at it.

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  • http://simplyblog.net Miguel @ Simply Blog

    John

    you’re right, it’s helpful to have an aim, purpose or idea of what your training to gain from the reading. Solid points indeed. I find it helpful to pre-read and post-read. I’ll cite your post in my write up on how to improve your reading speed.

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  • Chintya

    Hello everybody

    I’m doing a research at the university about how can students’ behaviour interfere with their language learning especially in reading comprehension activities?

    Have you ever read any article about my topic?

    If you can help me I would be very grateful to you.

    thank you

    • http://www.clerestorylearning.com Kevin D. Washburn

      Chintya, do you mean how students reading behaviour can interfere with reading comprehension? or are you researching non-reading behaviours?

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    Thanks for sharing this Blog. I was looking for resources to improve my English since I am now doing Online Marketing
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    I have my Blog too though I hope i did all correctly.

    Caitlyn Lopez

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  • http://yahoo sudi

    i read all productive informations and experiences which were realy written wisely and were absolutely helpful. i’m gonna follow these methods till i achieve my goal which is be as a pharmacist.xxxxx

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  • Asis

    these tips really helped me a lot 2improve my RCs

  • http://www.optimumreading.com Optimum Reading

    I see the information on this blog which is very impressive for those who don’t read because the tricks and tips they give inside are very informative and anyone can know who to read.

  • http://www.11minutespeedreading.com/ improve your reading skills

    When you were learning to read your parents probably read out loud with you. This helped you to connect text to sounds. As the words were spoken by your parent your eyes looked over the words.
    Thanks for sharing this blog!!!

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  • http://readtheory.org Tanner

    Its nice to see more being written about the value of reading comprehension exercises in improving reading ability and overall aptitude. However, it is important to note that while they may be popular, not all reading comprehension exercises are created equal. Some do a good job of quizzing students on vocabulary or the information they have just read, but leave out what is arguably the most important ingredient: critical thinking. Critical thinking questions teach students to manipulate bits of information which can be used to formulate their own answer – one that may not be clearly outlined in the text. At ReadTheory.Org, we believe in the power of critical thinking. And, we think it can be taught not only at the intermediate and advanced level , but at the beginning level as well. Well, thanks again for your article post, and thanks for reading my reply. Hopefully we’ll see some of you at ReadTheory!

  • tsega

    i change

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  • http://www.college-junction.com Brittany

    Thanks for these tips. Have been struggling with reading comprehension lately. Can’t wait to try them out!

  • Drama_princez29

    what is the standardized way to measure the comprehension skills? very much needed for my thesis.

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  • Sadeq

    that was good, tnx :)

  • Awadiyo

    thanks a lot

  • Ktharshana

    i need help people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Tuttypapa

    TLDR

  • Hat

    how do you make sense of what you are reading?

  • Dan

    Any suggestions for very detailed and technical reading?

  • http://acumeneducation.ca/ Azadeh

    Read the most difficult sections of your reading material more than
    once. If a paragraph or sentence of an article or book is
    difficult to understand, take the time to read this section
    twice or more, until you understand it thoroughly.