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How To Improve Your Reading Ability (in a Hurry). Part 2: Reading Comprehension

12 Apr


photocredit: hobvias sudoneighm (flickr)

photocredit: hobvias sudoneighm (flickr)

There is no doubt that speed is key to being an efficient reader. An overemphasis on this, however, tends to make people just rush through books. Ask them specific questions about the material and you will get wide eyes and a lot of “uhms” and “well…” They ate the whole cake without stopping to savor it.

But you can eat your cake and savor it, too (wait, that’s not right.) Here are a few pointers on improving your reading comprehension:

  • Be present: I don’t mean to sound too Zen here, but it’s true. Most people are easily distracted when reading–I just ate a bagel and chatted on gmail while writing this to prove this point. 

Where was I? Right, be present. One way you can do this is be overly critical of what you are reading. If you are reading non-fiction or something that is supposed to be persuasive, keep judging the author’s assumptions and intentions. If you are reading fiction or an objective piece, ask if there are discrepancies in the character’s actions or the line of thought of the article. Overall, be that guy that can’t wait to call “Bullshit!”

  • Focus on the gist of things: As mentioned in my post on improving your reading speed, our brains are marvelous in how they understand what we read. In order to get the main point of what you are reading you do not need to understand every single word in a sentence, or even every sentence in a paragraph. (If you cannot understand most paragraphs in a page, you might consider taking an ESL course). Focus on getting the the gist, not the particulars of what you read.
  • Pre-read: Most texts look the same when compared with comparable types (novels with novels; surveys with surveys; bibles with bibles). But even the slightest of difference can disrupt a reading flow, making your comprehension suffer. For example, if you reading a subhead-happy article, this structural trait can make you stop for a second and think, “Oh, this means another subtopic will be discussed. Cool.” This interrupts your flow.

Taking a few seconds to leaf through the next few pages of what you are planning to read will help you create a mental map of the text. Think of it as knowing what to wear for a night out. You don’t want to bring a t-shirt to a lounge, or dress pants to a dive bar. A little prep work will make everything easier and more enjoyable.


How to improve your reading ability (in a hurry). Part 1: Reading Speed

2 Apr
photocredit: hobvias sudoneighm (flickr)

photocredit: hobvias sudoneighm (flickr)

There are so many books, and so little time.  Not only that, but the time we do spend reading we feel we are not using efficiently enough.  Your eyes get tired, you start to yawn every few pages, and you get distracted by your itchy feet.  The reading material may be top quality, but you are just not getting as much as you would like out of it.

Three things make up our reading ability: speed, comprehension, and attention.  Losing one of the three is like going to work with no shirt/pants/shoes.  It will lead to your demise. Continue reading

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