4 Study Tips for Reading Comprehension

Posted by on April 9, 2013

Often the most difficult study skill to master is reading comprehension. Many readers find it difficult to recall information they read for use later. According to Joel Bisser, service learning coordinator and general education instructor at Minnesota School of Business-Lakeville, “One of the most common concerns I hear is ‘I read but I can’t remember what I read.’”

Below are Joel’s steps to help improve not only your reading speed, but also your ability to remember, understand, and apply the information.

reading comprehension tips

Joel Bisser, service learning coordinator and general education instructor at Minnesota School of Business-Lakeville

1.  Eliminate Distractions and Focus
Before sitting down to read, eliminate internal and external distractions. Moving yourself away from the TV, kids and others may seem easy, but our smart phones and other devices are flashing at us every few moments with texts and social media updates, so turn it off (all of those posted jokes and pictures will be there when you’re done reading).

Internal distractions are more difficult to minimize. If you are fatigued, hungry or thinking about what you’re going to do this weekend, you are less likely to focus on the material. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sleep. If you read an entire page and can’t remember what you just read, you wasted your time and are likely thinking about something else. Be mindful of your thoughts and bring yourself back to the task at hand. Paying attention to your thoughts is often a challenge, but can be mastered though practice.

2.  Preview
The best time to preview your textbooks is at the beginning of the term. Become familiar with the content of the book and the book’s organization. This will give you an idea of what you’ll be studying and will help you more efficiently utilize the book.

When previewing:

  • Flip through the book
  • Note pictures, charts and other visuals
  • Note chapter titles and terms in bold
  • Note main features at the beginning and end of each chapter—chapter introduction/objectives, summary and questions

By reading the chapter objectives, summary and end-of-chapter questions before reading the chapter itself, you’ll know which concepts you need to give your full attention.

3.  Integrating Knowledge
Work hard to absorb information. If you do not understand what you’ve read, go back and reread to resolve confusion.

When integrating knowledge:

  • Interact: Highlight and make notes in the margins when you find a main idea, supporting detail or any concept that stands out. If you think of a question while reading, write the question(s) in the margin. If you get an idea while reading, write it down. Highlight terms in bold. Highlighting and making notes will also make rereading more efficient because your eye will go directly to those ideas.
  • Predict: Make educated guesses about thoughts, events and outcomes.
  • Picture: Form images. Visualizations enhance the message in a text.
  • Relate: When you relate new material to existing knowledge, you are more likely to remember the new information.

Reading Comprehension4.  Recall
Recall is the most important stage for memory and comprehension. Recall is a review of what you’ve just read. Recall is a self-testing method that can be silent, oral or written. After reading, don’t just put the book down and move on to something else. Instead, take a few minutes to ask yourself these questions: “What did I just read? What did I learn?”

You can reflect silently, talk it out by yourself (better yet with others), or write a brief summary. When recalling, it is important to use your own words to show that you not only remember, but that you also understand the material. Using your own words also helps “download” the information into your memory.

Lastly, don’t forget to take breaks! Many students read for a few hours then close the book. Instead of getting caught in this trap, read for an hour, take a break (yes a break!), then return and review what you read before continuing. Taking a break gives the brain a rest and time for the ideas to sink in. This will eliminate overwhelming your brain with information that often cannot be comprehended or remembered from the beginning of the study period.

Thank you for your Interest in Minnesota School of Business.