Basics of Improving Reading Comprehension

College Degree Finder

I. PREVIEW: Develop an understanding of what you’ll be reading by briefly previewing it.

  • Preview assigned readings by reviewing chapter headings, charts and diagrams, and the table of contents.
  • Briefly review chapters by reviewing headings, bolded terms, chapter summaries, and chapter questions.
  • Mentally review already understood chapter concepts.

II. ACTIVE READING: Active readers ask questions, locate answers, and keep notes of key concepts.


  • Focus on one paragraph at a time. If you read a confusing sentence, refrain from rereading it since subsequent sentences will provide clarity.
  • After reading a confusing paragraph, reread it if necessary and look up terms you’re unfamiliar with.
  • When reading technical manuals, thoroughly review charts and diagrams to better comprehend the text.


  • Highlight key concepts and make margin notes. Pause after reading chapters and review main concepts.
  • Develop questions from chapter headings and locate answers while you read.
  • Highlight key concepts instead of entire sentences.
  • Highlight text after completing chapters since you’ll mark excessive amounts of text if you highlight while reading.
  • Get highlighting tips from good students.
  • Create a numbering system to identify information. For example, the number 1 can correspond to definitions, and the number 2 can correspond to examples that can be referenced during essays.


  • Attempt to determine why your instructor assigned a particular book. For example, some instructors assign books to get students to think critically rather than memorize facts
  • Determine how much time should be spent reading the book. To get an idea, ask the instructor how many classes will be spent reviewing the book
  • Determine the main concept of each section. Doing so will enhance your focus since you won’t get sidetracked by unimportant concepts. Students typically prefer writing page margins in books without headings
  • When keeping notes while reading, refrain from writing notes after finishing a paragraph; instead, take notes after reading multiple pages
  • If you’re assigned to write responses to assigned readings, mark pages to cite

III. REVIEW : Conduct reviews to re-summarize main concepts and determine whether you understand assigned readings.

  • After reading a chapter, spend a few minutes re-summarizing what you’ve read and taken notes about
  • Complete self-assessments to determine comprehension
  • Compare classroom notes with highlighted text
  • Organize study groups to review notes and prepare for tests

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