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Improving Awful Reading Comprehension

  1. Apr 21, 2014 #1
    Ever since I have been little, I have been able to understand what I was reading, but I can't tell you what I just read from memory to save my life.

    I don't know what the deal is. I want to read about science figures and such (I am trying to read an Einstein book now), but I have a hard time zoning in and committing it to memory.

    Does anyone have some tips. I feel like this could improve my abilities as a student. I never learned to be a good student since high school was so easy for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014
  4. Apr 21, 2014 #3


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    How fast you read is not as important as understand what you read. You want to get meaning and find structure in what you read, and this can mean reading the same stuff more than once, thinking and really studying it each time. Try reading and rereading, and then build an outline, and maybe make pictrures, like draw things about what was said to try to make sense of it.
  5. Apr 21, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Try reading something short and then write down a summary of what you just read in a journal. If you can't then read something smaller and try it again. It will take time to build up to larger reads as your mind adapts to the training or read and recall.

    Don't worry about catching every detail write the summary and don't get frustrated. You could use wikipedia as a resource for things to read. Also imagine that you can do it and you will...
  6. Apr 21, 2014 #5


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    Some things that might help...

    How many distractions are around you when you're trying to read? TV on? Radio or ipod playing? Room mate chatting on the phone about beer pong? There's a reason that quiet libraries are popular during exams. Try as much as possible to eliminate things that can grab your attention, so that you can focus on what you're reading.

    What else is going on in your head? Got 20 things to remember to do tomorrow? Worrying about how you're going to pay tuition next year? Should you ask out that cutie in your calculus class? Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to stay focussed. Something that helps me is making lists. I find if I write things down, I can "let go" of them mentally. Something else that helps is making constructive use of down time. I find it's easier to focus when I've taken the time to recharge.

    Get adequate sleep.

    Now for the actual reading. Sometimes it can help to have a goal. This can be anything from "I'm going to get through this chapter over the next two hours" to "I'm going to improve my understanding of time dilation" to "I'm going to take a break from reality for an hour and find out happened to Tyrion Lannister." When you set specific goals, you can tailor your reading process accordingly. For example if your goal is simply to understand something, it's often not necessary to toil over every little concept in the text, rather, to use the text to develop an outline in your own mind and then re-use it to develop details.

    Vocabulary. Look words up that you don't understand. I know, this can be annoying. And when you're in university and reading in your native language, you often feel like you shouldn't have to look things up. But sometimes a simple google search can present a tonne of clarity.

    Try talking about things you've read with others that are reading the same things. Sometimes trying to explain a concept (even if you're just talking to a wall) allows you to pinpoint specifically the areas that you don't understand.
  7. Apr 22, 2014 #6
    I was reading with nothing on. Nothing was happening. Just couldn't remember my book. It's very frustrating.

    Everything is in my head, at all times. Haha I don't have ADD but my mind likes to jump from one thing to another. I have a pretty short attention span. Just how I have always been.

    I get my eight hours every night but most days I still end up very tired.

    To be honest I get impatient when reading. I don't like having to take an hour to get through 10 pages.
  8. Apr 22, 2014 #7
    Thanks for all the input guys.
  9. Apr 23, 2014 #8
    Depends a lot on what you are reading and what your goal is. Anything that increases the amount of processing you do of the information is good. Visualization is one way to do that. You can try to picture things as you read.

    Another technique for some applications might be to read a paragraph, then put the book down and see if you can summarize that paragraph in your own words without looking. If a paragraph is too long, you can do it with one sentence. Remembering without looking is how information gets planted in more long term memory (and spaced repetition, visualization, making stuff as memorable as possible, etc).

    You can also pause to think about the information and what your reaction to it is. Again, increase your cognitive contact with the information. Read more actively. That should also help to be more engaged in it and therefore have a longer attention span.
  10. Apr 23, 2014 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    I think you've lost your interest in this thread as we didn't give you the advice you were looking for.

    Have you tried any of these ideas?

    Perhaps you need to watch yourself as you read and see why you're losing attention. I know when I read a book, an interesting word will trigger some memory which will derail my reading as I follow the thought and then I find I've read a few sentences that I can't now remember and have to reread them. It takes a lot of training to stay in the moment...

    This book might help if you can take the time to really read it:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  11. Apr 23, 2014 #10

    Actually no I haven't. This is the week before exams so I have other things to do right now.
  12. Apr 23, 2014 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    Okay, good luck on your exams.
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