Get the Most from Your Study Reading

One of the worst things you can do as a study reader is to open your book and begin detailed reading on the very first page without any preliminary work. This is like setting out on a long journey without looking at a map to see where you are going and what you are likely to encounter along the way. It is also like trying to build a house without blueprints or any idea of what you want the house to look like.

Your goal should be to develop the habit of “surveying” or “previewing” each textbook and each chapter within that textbook. You will develop the obvious but rarely practiced skill of having a precise road map or framework in your head before you start detailed reading.

It is easier to remember a list of items if you know in advance what the categories are. Your memory works by association and by combining unknown new things with known factors already stored in long-term memory. Therefore, the more detailed your list of landmarks on the road map, the more chance you have to store the new, unfamiliar material that you encounter in your reading.

Here is an example of how to survey a textbook chapter and create a valuable road map for the dense material to come later. The single most important principle in surveying is to make use of many clues, cues, and memory hooks that have already been supplied for you, but which are usually glossed over as irrelevant or useless. They are very useful.

10 Steps to More Efficient Study Reading

• Step 1: Read the title and think about what is going to be discussed in the chapter. This is an obvious but often ignored first step. It is a technique for activating prior knowledge.

• Step 2: Look in the table of contents for the book. If there is a summary of the chapter or an outline of the main points, read it carefully and take 30 seconds to think about it and let it sink in.

• Step 3: If there is a summary or outline at the beginning or end of the chapter, repeat Step 2.

• Step 4: If there is a set of review or discussion questions, read them. Use them as a set of clues as to what the author feels is important in the chapter. Why waste time trying to figure it out if someone will tell you? Studying should be hard work; that’s how you learn. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore assistance when it’s offered to you.

• Step 5: Read the introductory and concluding sections or paragraph. These are also often summaries of the content and indicators of what is important.

• Step 6: Read all the major headings. Think about how the chapter is structured and what basic divisions are made in the information.

• Step 7: Read all the subheadings and sub-subheadings. These indicate significant subject areas within a major heading.

• Step 8: Read the first sentence of each paragraph. This is usually the topic sentence and the best cue to the content of the paragraph.

• Step 9: Examine all graphics. Look at all the pictures, graphs, maps, and so on. Read all captions carefully. Your goal is to understand what the graphics are telling you and how they fit into the structure of the chapter. Don’t be surprised if after doing Steps 1 through 8, you actually understand quite a bit about the graphics.

• Step 10: This step is vital. If you skip it, you will have wasted most of the time you spent surveying. Take 60 to 90 seconds to review and rehearse the main points of the chapter and the important material contained in it. It’s best to do this in writing. Write it out as fast as you can, using key words and phrases. There are no points for neatness or complete sentences. The goal is not to create lasting notes. What you want to do is consolidate the framework before you go on to detailed reading. Do this. It is important.

More ways of maximizing your studying potential and unlocking the genius in you can be found it Study Smarter, Not Harder by Kevin Paul.

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