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There is a difference between knowing how to read and reading critically to get the most out of what you’re learning in college. Research suggests that reading critically involves three important components:
The consideration of the author’s purpose
The quality of the content being read
Comparing the content being read to prior knowledge about the subject
Since a successful academic experience relies on a complete understanding of a subject by reading the required texts, reading skills are invaluable in college and can truly make all the difference in facilitating a more holistic education.
SQ4R Reading Strategy
Now that we’ve established why reading skills are critical for your learning, let’s get into how to increase your skills. One of the most effective, efficient ways to critically read text is by using the SQ4R reading strategy. This method has you do the following as you read:
Survey: Scan the chapter to get a general idea of the contents. Read the introduction, main headings, and any summary or questions at the end of the chapter. Also look at any pictures or graphs.
Question: Turn the section headings into questions. For example, if the heading in a history textbook is “The Roots of the Reformation,” turn it into a question by asking “What does the author say caused the Reformation? How many causes were there and why did it happen at that particular time in history?” It also helps if you write the questions down.
Read: Read just one section at a time and attempt to answer the questions in your mind as you read.
Recite: Look away from your reading and attempt to answer the questions aloud. If you cannot answer the questions, read the section again.
Record: Take notes on what you’ve read, organizing key concepts under each heading. Write down concepts, not complete sentences.
Review: As you finish taking notes on each section, go back and review your notes. Once you’ve completed each of the sections, review the entire chapter. When studying for a test, review the material using your notes rather than the textbook itself.
That’s it! At the end of each week, I recommend integrating the notes from your reading with the lecture notes you took in class in order to eliminate redundancies and centralize information into one notebook. This notebook is what you’ll study before exams.
Although it may seem like this method is time-consuming, after a week of practicing you will get the hang of it and will see a marked improvement in your reading speed and, more importantly, your critical understanding of the material.