7 English Reading Tips for Foreign Students That Work

If you ask a native English speaker how a foreign student can excel at reading, you will hear some generic answer like:

"You should familiarize yourself with the English language and dive to different articles, books, and academic write-ups. The more you become familiar with the language in different contexts, the more you can take English tests more comprehensively and correctly."

No, we are not trying to talk about the cliché here. The list below is something you need to really do to improve your English reading skills.

1. Start with what you like
If you are not sure why you are reading and what you are supposed to read, it might be a good start if you try to read anything of your interest. This will motivate you to read and read more.

Reading can be a way to relax. If you pressure yourself to read and read every day of your life, you would not find anything fruitful in reading. Read whenever you are in the mood. This will help you to achieve a full understanding and enhanced reading skills.

2. Find answers to your questions
Often, people cannot find the motivation to read. One great help to boost your interest in reading is to think about a question that you want to answer and find reading materials that answer it. Aside from learning new things, you can enhance your English language comprehension and your vocabulary.

3. Read more than 3 times
Often, readers think that one time of reading the whole thing is enough to understand the text. In reality, you should read it more than once. This would help you to understand what you are reading. Because you just cannot understand the meaning on your first try.

4. Use English-English dictionary
Reading cannot be considered as reading if you do not understand what you are reading. One thing that can help you achieve the full understanding of the reading materials is to use a dictionary. We are talking about English to English dictionary, not an English to your native language dictionary. Try to remember an easy "synonym" for a difficult word. Also, try to remember the verb, adjective, and adverb in one go.

5. Build your vocabulary
The biggest obstacle for foreign students is to try to build more vocabulary. What you need to do is to try to remember 5 to 10 words every day. Only 5 to 10 words don't need so much time. You can also use vocabulary flashcard or vocabulary game on your cell phone if that works for you. However, try to do it every day. After a year, you will find that you don't need to use a dictionary that often.

6. Talk to yourself in English
When you read, you might have the tendency to translate each word into your own language. This might help you understand the questions in the test, but using this technique might not lead to a more accurate understanding of what is being asked. To get rid of this problem, you should always try to practice thinking in English. People who talk to themselves in English will see that their speaking skills improve quickly too.

7. Try to understand the big picture
You must remember that the English language cannot be fully understood by knowing the meaning of every word in a sentence or a paragraph. You should keep in mind that, to understand English, you should not translate word for word. But, you should try to understand the whole idea.

Aside from reading and reading English materials, taking the English tests like vocabulary and grammar tests available online will help you to prepare for the test. Doing this might be a great help. No one knows if the practice test items might similarly come up in the test itself.

- Hayashi, Keiko. "Reading strategies and extensive reading in EFL classes." RELC journal 30.2 (1999): 114-132.

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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.