How to Get All Your College Course Reading Done Efficiently

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As you stare at your mountain of college reading, take a deep breath. While the volume of pages in front of you may be daunting, there are strategies you can use to tackle the reading efficiently so you can have time left over to enjoy college too!

The College Reading Load

As a college student, I remember dreading the first day of class. It was the day that professors would present us with a syllabus and the reading lists for the term. If you are anything like me, it was also the day where you would come face to face with the amount of sleep you were going to lose getting all the reading done. Depending on the classes, it could be a novel a week in English, two chapters in physics, or four in history. Some terms, I would be in tears after adding up all the pages I had to read in a week. But never fear, there are several strategies to completing your college reading efficiently and effectively.

Try Reading Backward

If you want to get the reading for your college courses done efficiently, the place to start is by reading backward. No, I don't mean literally reading the words backward! Instead, start by reading the end of the chapter first. Trust me—there is a logical reason for this decision. The way textbooks are structured, chapters typically end with a summary and a list of key vocabulary. If you read it first, you know exactly what you need to look for in the chapter. You save time focusing on the sections of the chapter that are most important, instead of trying to figure it out as you go.

Scan for the Most Important Information

Contrary to what you may think, there will be college courses where reading everything isn't necessary. Let's say, for example, you have to write a term paper for an environmental science class. While you could read dozens of technical articles in detail, that may not be the most efficient use of your time. For example, in some courses, you're better off if you start by skimming the material. What this means is reading a few sentences of each paragraph until you find sections that align with your assignment. Skimming works well in classes where you are being assessed via term paper; you can focus on the sections of the text that pertain to the specific assignment. By skimming, you can trim the volume of your reading down to a more manageable load.

student behind reading

Read Actively

As a child, you probably heard the adage about doing things right the first time. The truth is, if you want to get your college reading done efficiently, do it once. When you sit down to read, keep a highlighter, pencil, and sticky notes on hand. With these tools, you can do a close reading the first time through. Oftentimes, when speed read to get it all done, you miss a lot of critical details. Your time is better spent going slowly and carefully when you read it the first time. As you read, highlight important ideas, underline keywords, and write questions and comments in the margins. That way you are prepared, not only for class, but any assignment that requires you to utilize the text.

college student reading

Read Efficiently

You may not believe it when you first read the syllabus, but you can get the reading for your classes done efficiently. Sometimes you will need to read actively, annotating the text as you go, which saves you having to go back and re-read the text later looking for important details or processes. Reading backward can also be a timesaver because chapter summaries can help you identify the most important information. That way, when you sit down to read, you already know where to focus your attention. Finally, there are times when you can skim the text looking for just what you need and ignore the rest of the material. Using strategies such as these can help you efficiently tackle your college reading and have time left over to live your life!

Need more reading strategies to help you tackle your college reading efficiently? Sign up for a Study.com student plan today!

By Rachel Tustin
March 2018
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