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Students are required to read in college. It’s the nature of the beast. Exactly how much reading you will do in college, though, depends mainly upon two things: your college major and the individual courses you take. For example, if your major is English, you will obviously have to read far more during your time in college than someone majoring in accounting, and when taking a required history course, you will naturally have far more reading to do than when you're taking a required math course.
Then again, regardless of major or individual courses, the reality is that you will have a great many reading assignments as a college student. You will have to read assigned chapters from textbooks and selections from anthologies, as well as numerous novels, literary analyses, and clinical studies, etc. On top of all that, you will also have to read books and articles when conducting research for papers, reports, and presentations. So, with this unavoidable reality in mind, the question is, how can you possibly read all that you will be required to read in college yet comprehend and then retain as much information as possible?
Create a Schedule for How Much to Read Each Day in College
There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a week. Therefore, in order to complete all the reading assignments you will have in college, you will need to create a reading schedule and then stick to it. Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish that goal:
- Read a specific amount each day at a designated time. For example, if you must complete four chapters before class reconvenes in two days, and the only stretch of free time you have is from 5:00 until 6:00 each afternoon, set aside that time for reading and plan to finish two chapters during each session.
- Read whenever you have the opportunity, for example, during breakfast or lunch or, if you’re employed, during your scheduled breaks.
- Read in the evening before retiring instead of watching television, chatting on the phone, or surfing the web. Granted, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but since reading must come first at this point in your life, at least learn to limit leisure-time activities for the foreseeable future.
How to Read College Assignments Fast but Retain Information
Although there are other recommended reading methods, William H. Barnwell and Robert Dees, coauthors of The Resourceful Writer (1999), are proponents of the SRR Method, which actually involves three separate processes: skimming, reading, and reviewing. Using this method will help you read college assignments in a shorter time yet still comprehend and then retain the information.
- Skim over the material by doing the following
- Read all subheadings.
- Read the first (and sometimes second) sentences of enough paragraphs to provide you with the author’s main points.
- Read the last one or two paragraphs.
- Jot down main ideas.
- Highlight words you do not know.
- Jot down any questions that arise.
- Read the material more closely and do the following:
- Underline main ideas.
- Stop briefly and attempt to figure out anything you find confusing.
- Relate the material to your own experience.
- Jot down questions to ask your instructor.
- Look up the definitions of words you don’t know.
- Review the material:
- Without looking at the material, ask yourself these questions: What was the main point? What were any minor points of importance? What details or evidence were presented to back up these points? Write down your answers if possible.
- If you cannot answer the questions above, review the material again and re-read any notes you took.
Barnwell, W. & Dees, R., (1999) The Resourceful Writer. New York: Houghton Mifflin