How a student can read and understand effectively
One of the major strategies to passing any examination is learn to read books and understand the materials recommended for such exam. And to effectively do this, you must be able to gain and retain information from the materials you are to read.
It is common to hear “I don’t understand this textbook or course notes” among students. However, there are strategies you can you that will help you to effectively read and understand. These strategies include:
This is the most important thing ever while studying. If you don’t focus, you can’t carry out your plan.
There are a lot of distractions that pop in while studying, which causes you not to focus. The main distractions are;
Noise: Try as much as possible to avoid noisy environment when you want to study, it helps your brain to focus and have more attention to your book. Except you are the type that can read in any condition you find yourself in.
Phone: This is what distracts students mostly these days. When you want to study and you know you’ll be “tempted” to use your phone, kindly put your phone somewhere. Or if you are using your phone to study a material, try as much as possible to put off your mobile data connection to prevent receiving message notifications. Or better still put off your notification.
Mind: Once your mind is not with you due to one thing or the other, maybe an emotional problem or you’ve been thinking too much, you won’t be able to concentrate more on what you are reading. Your mind has to be in what you are doing which for now is to read. Moreover, read when you are in a relaxed mood: don’t read under pressure.
Your ability to comprehend and retain what you read drops off dramatically after an hour or so. And a full understanding of a book takes time to develop. Therefore, it is good to know how many hours you want to spend and set a time limit. Setting a time limit means you should know the time to start reading and the time to stop reading. You should read a book in several short sessions of one to two hours apiece, rather than one long marathon. Let say you have 6 hours to read a particular text, you can divide the 6 hours into four fractions: 1 hour 30 minutes for each fraction. Don’t just read for the six hours without rest, you won’t assimilate much if you use that method.
You should note that before you resume for the next session, start by asking yourself what you remember from your previous reading, what you think of it so far, and what you still need to learn.
Read three times
This is to help you get the important information while reading. You should use the first time for overview and discovery, the second time for detail and understanding, and the third time for note-taking in your own words. Note-taking enables you to engage another part of your brain to aid your understanding.
Consistency and Persistence
You may not gain much understanding if you leave too much gap while reading: let say you pick your notebook or textbook today and take you more than two days to go back to it. This gap would have affected your retention level. It is good to visit your book(s) daily even if it is not more than 1 hour.
Persistence works when you feel you are not getting much understanding. You need to keep exploring the contents of the book until you the full gist of the book.
Rehearse what you have read
Learning and memory depend crucially on rehearsal. This can mean explaining what you have read to a friend, quizzing yourself on its Contents, speaking what you have read to yourself etc. When you are rehearsing use multiple modes of thinking and action. The modes are reading, writing, speaking, listening, and visualizing. Visualizing is like mind mapping: having a mental picture of what you needed to know in a very clear and structured way.
Lastly, it is important to focus on the part of high information content because no matter how carefully you read, you won’t remember most of the details anyway. What you can do is to remember and record the main points. And for you to do excellently well in any exam you must be able to read and understand.
(i) Daniel Ejalonibu – Civil Engineering, Unilag
(ii) Paul N. Edwards – How to Read a Book, v5.0
Thanks to Obina Amaji (Medical student UI) for his contribution.