Here's How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension Effectively

You are reading a lengthy history book. You have been stuck in the same paragraph for the last half hour but somehow, the words do not seem to make sense. You end up looking at the lines repeatedly without gaining insight and you are tempted to just close the book and give up.

If you have had those moments before, here are some pointers that might help you better understand that hard-to-read book or article the next time around:

1. Do the first read-through
Understand what you are about to read in the first place – it will dictate which information you need to get from the material. If you are reading for leisure, then maybe the gist of the article or the plot of a book is the takeaway you want. If you are reading a book report, then you would want to take a deeper look at the details. If you are taking reading comprehension exam, look through the questions first.

To do the first read-through, what you need to do is to skim read to get the whole idea. Skim reading will provide you with the first impression of the article you are reading. If you find it interesting to you, explore further.

2. Read slowly on the 2nd round
Once you get the first impression of the article, what to do next is to read slowly and carefully from the beginning to the end. The purpose of 2nd reading is to collect some important points of the article.

3. Read out loud
Applicable especially for people that are auditory learners; reading a text out loud will enable you to remember it better. It will also allow your brain to sort through the information you have verbalized and check if you understood it.

4. Make notes on the margins
A great way to interact with the text you are reading is to make notes on its margins. The notes can be a summary of the passage you just read or even your thoughts on the passage. This will ensure that you process the data you absorbed since you thought about it enough to have formed opinions around it.

5. Check relevant terms
After getting the main ideas from the notes you jot down, try to check if there are some relevant and interesting terms you don't understand yet. Checking the meaning of every word as you read is not the good way to build your vocabulary. Because many people spend to much time to check the meaning of unimportant words that they won't find often.

6. Paraphrase the main ideas
Paraphrasing is another great way to train you to process information as you read it. By being able to articulate the idea or thought you get from a reading in a different manner and repeating it to yourself, you can be assured that you do get the gist of the text.

7. Visualize data and information
For visual learners, you can draw a visual representation of the text you have read. For example, if you are reading about “water cycle” – you might want to draw the sea as the source of water evaporation, clouds as the place where condensation occurs and rain to represent precipitation.

It is always a good idea to discuss text and readings with friends or classmates or peers. Your ability to share ideas about a text validates your understanding of what you read but also allows you to appreciate the interpretation of others, thereby deepening your knowledge of the text.

Remember these tips the next time you read those daunting scientific journals or philosophy papers and expect to have a much easier time.

- McNamara, Danielle S., ed. Reading comprehension strategies: Theories, interventions, and technologies. Psychology Press, 2012.

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Last review and update: August 30, 2021
About the Editor
Ben Benjabutr is the editor of BookWorm4Life. He holds a Master's Degree in business with 10+ years of work experience and 8+ years of experience in blogging and online content production. He enjoys reading books about business, lifestyle and literature and he loves to share what he learns from books. You can drop him a line via e-mail.