College Survival Guide/Improving Reading Skills

Read the Course Books Before the Semester Starts


Many college students have this policy after learning "the system" to read the course books ahead of time. Of course, this proposes many questions:

  • What am I suppose to be learning from this book?

Answer: Whatever is covered in the book. All things covered that relate to the course are important. Remember as much as you can about a book, while knowing which gibberish to ignore. Often, when reading a book with a lot of information, much of the information to remember belongs to specific people/objects, events, actions, results, locations, concepts, and problems. This "thing to remember logic" applies to multiple academic disciplines.

  • When the class starts, you can ask your professor about what is to remembered and what is not.

Either way, most "good" college students come out of a course remembering about 50% of the material covered in a course book.

Here's something to remember: read as much of a/the book(s) as you can, as soon as you can. Read a/the book(s) before the semester starts.

"Reading before the semester starts" technique: Say, you have five books and one book for each course.

Read at least 10 pages from each book. When you are done with 10 pages from one book, switch to the next book; keep this 10 page revolving system going, until classes start or read a chapter and then switch books. Usually, reading one chapter from a book and switching to the next does well for covering the book(s) of each class. Some people get annoyed with studying one thing, so they'll switch to the next book after a certain amount of pages. If you have a certain major, say psychology, you'll probably be able to retain and read more pages than from other books: This may or may not be a good idea.

By keeping up a certain pattern of reading each book, you will be able know what the books cover and what the class topics are about.

Try to read as much of each book as you can before classes start. You will have an advantage if you read the books ahead of time.

Write Down What You Don't Understand


When a person reads a book he or she may have trouble understanding the concepts of the things presented. Often, a person wants to read a chapter, but he or she may continue to try and understand a concept before moving to the next page.

The best thing to do in this situation is to write down the concept you do not understand. After you write down what you do not understand, present what you don't understand to the professor.

Before presenting, find a way to ask about what you don't understand. Write a question about the concept in question form on a piece of paper. This way, when you talk to the professor, you can ask him or her the question about the topic you don't understand, that is on the piece of paper.


You read a paragraph about RNA, introns, and extrons. Yet you don't understand how introns are cut out from RNA before becoming mRNA.

  • Write down: introns, RNA, and extrons
  • Make a question: How are introns cut out from RNA before RNA becomes mRNA?

After doing so, you may move onto the next page and hopefully understand more as you continue to read. Sometimes as a person moves on, he or she will find different material that is unrelated, so he or she can focus on that material, and later on the part he or she did not understand. With the part someone did not understand he or she would present that question to the professor.

This is a technique used to cover the rest of the chapter, and read the chapter instead of having a point in which someone becomes stuck on a page before moving on.

Highlight what you don't understand


If you have a problem reading something but you can absorb the other information, you might want to highlight certain sections that are giving you problems. Otherwise, you could type these things in a word-processor. Afterwards, you could print them out and later highlight the things you don't understand. Afterwards, you could print another sheet of these things out and highlight the things you still don't understand. Highlighting allows a person to focus on material that is not understood. It allows a person to skip portions of a text that are understood, thus eliminating the need to reread things.