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Many college students find themselves overwhelmed by the quantity of assigned reading. Even those who took rigorous courses in high school, such as advanced placement classes, might struggle to keep up with the required material their professors assign. Fortunately, there are ways you can become a better reader in order to maximize the time you spend reading and to improve your comprehension and enhance your ability to retain information.

Choose the Right Setting

Even though you might think you’re getting ahead by squeezing in a few pages here and there, it isn’t effective if your brain isn’t picking up the information you read. Visual distractions, loud or continuous noises, intrusive lighting, and the presence of other people can all reduce your ability to read textbooks quickly and remember what you read. If you find yourself rereading the same paragraph or page, the chances are high that something in your environment is distracting you. Find a quiet, comfortable place to read so that you can consume the content efficiently.

Read With an Engaged Mind

Even if you find the right environment, you might still read without grasping the information. Your mind could wander if the content seems boring. To engage your mind and improve comprehension, go beyond simply reading the material. Underline key points, mentally answer thought questions in the text, or jot down an outline of the content as you go to keep your brain alert.

Enhance Your Reading Rate

With practice, you can learn to use speed reading techniques while studying. For an easy start, try using a pen or your finger to guide your eye through the content. Because your eyes want to follow the movement, they read the content quicker than they would without the guide of the pen.

Skimming is another speed reading technique. Because it results in lower comprehension, it’s best to skim only when you’re assigned content the professor already covered in class. Skimming the material instead of skipping it altogether will help cement your retention of the information, because you’re essentially reviewing content you’ve already learned during the lecture.

Maximize Your Time

One strategy for making the best use of your time is to join with other students to split up the assigned reading. Within a small group of committed students, you can provide each other with thorough summaries, reducing the amount of actual text you have to read. This system works only if every student does his or her reading and creates a meaningful overview for others to digest.

Learn how to determine which assigned readings are important. Some professors lecture on major points from the text. When you’re short on time, you can skip sections that the professor thoroughly discussed in a lecture.

Another way to maximize your time is to listen to books while you exercise or drive. If you’re assigned a novel, you might be able to get the audiobook, depending on the title.

Whatever you’re reading, make notes on concepts that you don’t understand. There’s nothing productive about reading information that makes no sense. Your professors, their teaching assistants, or the members of your study group can answer your questions to help you understand what you’ve read.

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