Ways to Read Challenging Material

July 28, 2012 Category: College Tips

Starting college comes with some adjustments in many aspects.  One adjustment that must be made is the way to study or even read difficult material.  As you can very well imagine high school reading assignments and college level reading assignments can be very different in there level of difficulty.  There will be classes you take that you had never thought about taking in the past and the readings may be a bit more challenging than you expected.

Reading material that is challenging is a matter of concentration and having a simple way of organizing ideas.

Reading the Material

To begin with choose the part you are going to begin with, be it a few paragraphs or a whole chapter.  Look it over to get a feel for the organization.  Scan for section titles, headings, sub-headings.  Read the topic sentences to get the general idea of the reading.  Do not skip over the graphs, charts and/or diagrams; they sometimes help you understand where the reading may get confusing.

If the chapter contains a summary at the end, make sure to read it.  What is addressed in at length within the chapter is condensed in the summary, which may make more sense to you.

As you are reading, mark what you do not understand so you can come back to it and review at a later time.

As you read, it is beneficial if you periodically stop and ask yourself a stimulus question about the text you just read.  You may find it helpful to broaden your understanding and focus on the topic at hand.  You can also just restate to yourself what it was you just read, making sure of your comprehension.

There are times you might want to stop and look up words that you do not know by using the context, yet you know they are important to your understanding of the material.  This may seem like a laborious task, but do not get discouraged, keep reading until the end.  You will find that some things may become clearer if you read all the way through.  At the end review to see what you have learned and reread those concepts that were not perfectly clear.

After the Reading

When you write up notes on the reading, try to organize them by connecting ideas from within the reading or even from lectures or other sources.  Paying attention to the relationships between ideas can help comprehension of the big picture.

After you have finished reading and you still do not quite understand it, try setting it aside and read it again the next day.  Sometimes rereading it a day after helps and if it is still a challenge, talk to your instructor or academic counselor.  They may give you more suggestion.  Visiting a reading specialist on campus may be beneficial also.

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