I didn’t want to start with reminding you how vitally important reading is, honestly. I believe you perfectly understand that without any additional remarks. So, let’s omit them today and move to dealing with the following question – how to make your reading effective.
What stands behind this effectiveness? Our goals. And our wish to fulfill them will determine how we’re going to do it.
Therefore, if you want to pass language tests more successfully (and you know that reading comprehension is an integral part of any test), you need to get better at analyzing given texts and doing tasks after them. If your current or potential job requires you to process a huge amount of information fast on a regular basis, you need to be capable of working with many sources and finding the necessary data without delays.
Hope you’ve got an idea. Comprehension of any text you read implies that you are able to understand what its author tells you and how they tell it, as well as to express your own view about or impression of this text. Besides, you can extract essential info from it and use this info to complete the work of a different kind.
Now let’s make out what you should do to read fast and comprehend what you read flawlessly. I’ve tried to work out universal strategies, so they are applicable for developing skills at reading in both your mother tongue and a foreign language. Also, I’ve decided to divide the strategies into three groups, which correlate to the three main stages or rather elements of effective comprehension.
#1. Building Your Own System of Knowledge
You might have heard that two seemingly different concepts can be interconnected with the help of not more than six other concepts. Thus, you can interconnect “tree” and “plane” by coming up with the maximum of six associations in-between these two objects.
That means everything we know forms a complex informational system inside our heads. All elements within this system are interconnected so perfectly that we are able to remember and use loads of information, constantly uploading more and more new knowledge into our brains. Where do we get it from? Mostly from reading news, books, or our friends’ Twits.
You can see that in order to be good at comprehending new information, you need to have what’s called background knowledge, which you can obtain from reading more.
Here’s how it all gets enclosed. So, let’s consider your actions in more detail.
Read just for your own pleasure
You need to broaden and deepen your knowledge of various subject areas, as it will give you a better understanding of the new things you’ll discover.
Enrich your vocabulary
The more you read in your native or in a foreign language, the more words and their natural combinations you can learn. Regular reading will also add to your speaking skills and hence allow you to feel more confident about what you say and how you say it.
Discuss what you read with others
At first sight it may seem that such a tip is good for developing your speaking skills, not reading. But when you discuss a book, a piece of news, or a blogpost with your nearest and dearest, you get a great chance to understand the author’s content and ideas better. Plus, you can express your own view, which can only add to the general comprehension of the info you received.
#2. Reading a Particular Text
So, you’ve got a text, and its content is crucial to you for some reasons. You want to understand and remember its idea as well as the ways it is introduced by an author.
Let’s assume that the text you’re reading is a part of an exercise or that you’ve chosen it yourself just to train your language skills. We aren’t going to speak about exam tasks, which require more concentration and are aimed at checking and evaluating the achievements of your reading practice.
Here are some helpful universal tips on working with various articles, abstracts from literary works, and texts of any other kind.
Don’t hurry and pause if needed
Read aloud and read thoughtfully. This time speed isn’t your goal. You should strive to understand the idea of the text, to connect it with what you already know, to use it for the further analysis of new information. So, you can pause to dig deeper into the meanings of the abstract you’ve read and to make references to the other knowledge or experience you have in order to understand these meanings more clearly.
Try to predict the following content
That’s an interesting exercise. Take a quick look at the heading and subheadings of the given text. Got it? Now try to imagine what the whole story is about. Express your opinion in a few sentences. And then read the text to find out if you’ve guessed.
Take notes and ask questions
Get armed with a pen or pencil. If this text is on your laptop or tablet, make sure you have a notebook to write down the ideas you like or questions you have. Or create a new document for these purposes.
#3. Getting an Effect Fixed in Your Mind
Regular reading is definitely good for enriching your vocabulary and developing comprehension skills. However, it’s still not enough for being totally confident that you can use both vocabulary and skills for all intents and purposes. What else do you need?
Here are a few simple tips that will turn reading into a beneficial and enjoyable activity.
You can opt for the one you like the most or follow all of them when you do any reading tasks. The most important thing is that the effect you get after completing these tasks isn’t in vain if you support it with a little bit of additional practice.
Complete assignments if they are available
Mainly that concerns studying foreign languages. If you study with a special textbook, don’t shirk the assignments below the texts you read. They are designed to give you an opportunity to practice the new vocabulary and check how well you can analyze the given ideas and concepts.
Try to retell the text you’ve read
You can do it in both written or oral form. If reading comprehension is a part of your homework in a foreign language course, try to retell the assigned text in your mother tongue first, and then proceed with practicing the retelling in the language you study.
Set the length of the retold text yourself or ask your teacher to help you with it. Also, you can add your personal impressions of the original to it.
Continue the story given
It is a great exercise for the work with abstracts from literary works. Before you google for the book, try to make up the further course of events. Analyze the characters, the things that happen to them, the circumstances they face, and come up with your own version of their destinies.