12 Tips to Help Keep Up With Reading Assignments
The demand to keep up with reading isn’t always an easy one to meet. Unfortunately, it seems like your professors couldn’t care less about the trouble that you’re having. If so, they wouldn’t keep piling on reading assignment after reading assignment, would they?
(And that’s in addition to everything else they make you do!)
In this article, we are going to look at a dozen ways that you can fight back. By simply being more organized and putting these tips to use, you could find yourself breezing through the reading requirements with time to spare. Let’s begin!
1. Keep a Schedule
Especially as you get into college, you’re going to face more reading assignments than it seems like one could reasonably handle in the given length of time to accomplish them. That said, you have to try.
Your efforts will improve if you learn to keep tabs on everything that is expected of you. This goes for more than just reading, but it’s helpful to have your own separate list devoted to it.
Write down each class along with the assigned reading for the week. From there, calculate how many days you have to get it all done, and try to devote a section of each day to hitting those milestones.
2. Scan First
When it comes to the act of reading itself, it helps to have a grasp on what you’re about to read before you actually attempt it. Thankfully, most of the more challenging prose that you will find in a textbook is broken up into sections.
Don’t read a single sentence until you’ve gone through each section and read the headlines and subheadings. These will give you a sense of how the text will flow from one idea to the next.
Getting this level of familiarity in place will help you keep pace with the text as it flows at you. It will help you accurately guess where the writer is going and invoke the types of thoughts, questions, and connections that lead to understanding.
3. Practice Speed Reading
Speed-reading is a skill that takes practice. The good news is that anyone can incorporate the principles of speed-reading to read faster than they currently are. You start by revisiting No. 2 and giving the text a good scan.
Beyond that, it helps to time yourself as you read a section and then go back and re-read it again. You’ll find that invoking a sense of urgency in your reading will help you naturally slice away the words that don’t carry as much meaning so you can focus on key terms.
You should also consider paying to take a speed-reading course. Or, you can invest in an application like Outread to help push yourself along to faster read-times.
4. Find Video or Audio
One great advantage that students have today when it comes to reading over students of yesteryear is the audiobook. Throw YouTube and the Internet in general on top of that, and it’s a recipe for success.
The Internet put us in a new information age, where we have access to more great minds and study aids than ever before. Many take the form of audio and video content. These can greatly reduce your reading time by facilitating accelerated learning.
Find an expert on a topic you’re reading. Watch and listen to what they have to say. Play back at higher rates of speed so you can absorb their expertise more quickly. Or, just find the book you’re supposed to be reading in such a file and do the same.
Your mind absorbs information in largely the same way hearing it as it does when your eyes scan over the same information in textual form. It can definitely take a chunk out of the overall reading time.
5. Break Up Large Assignments
The best thing you can do when you are assigned a large reading assignment is to take a look at the number of days you have until you need to have the information read. Then, look at how long the text is.
Divide the page-count by the number of days. Also, leave room for other reading assignments that you might have on the horizon. Once you have the broader number in place, you’ll know exactly how much to read of what each day.
The worst thing you can do? Wait until a few days before to tackle a large reading assignment. You could get through all the words, but retention is another story.
6. Develop a Rewards System
Some of what you will be forced to read in college and high school is enough to put you to sleep without a little stimulation along the way. That’s understandable. You’re encountering complex information presented in formal terms, often for the first time.
How do you deal with it? We suggest peppering in both short-term and long-term rewards for hitting each milestone. A short-term reward could be something as little as playing a hand of golf solitaire on your phone in between chapters. A long-term reward might be taking yourself out for a dessert or nice meal or day of shopping when you finish the unit.
Whatever you choose to set for your rewards, make sure they are realistic, proportional to the accomplishment, and affordable. In other words, don’t get carried away with your accomplishments, but don’t ignore them either.
7. Take Notes in Class
A good way to not necessarily circumvent the reading process but to at least bring understanding to a subject you haven’t been able to adequately cover is this. You actually show up to class and take notes.
Great note-taking can overcome a missed reading assignment here and there. In fact, we almost guarantee that it will save your bacon once or twice throughout your educational career.
Of course, the notes you take have to be good. You have to sit and listen to your professors attentively. Jot down what they have to say in as best a shorthand as you can. Consider running a recorder while you’re doing it.
Then, go back and listen to the recording as close to the end of class as you can. This will help to fill in many of the gaps that come from just not being able to write as fast as you hear the information.
8. Put Your Heads Together
Pooling resources is another useful method for bridging the gap between the reading assignment and your speed of processing it. How do you pull this off? By getting with class members, of course!
Ultimately, each of you is responsible for meeting the demands of the reading assignment. That said, working with the right person can take you a long way to understanding what you’re reading without having to tackle every word.
Let’s say you have a group of four trusted classmates, for example. You might break up the reading assignment where each of you takes a section, reads it thoroughly, then presents your information at the next roundtable.
If you’re pouring yourself into your section, it will be easier to follow the presentation of your fellow group members as they discuss the sections they read. Meeting in a groupthink environment is a quick way to put all the pieces together without overtaxing yourself on a long reading assignment.
9. Train Yourself Not to Read Every Word
Many of the words you encounter when reading a passage are simply bridge-words. You see them all the time. Take them for granted. You don’t have to verbalize them to know they are there or to know what their ultimate function is. Let’s look back over this paragraph as an example.
We would classify these “bridge-words” as things like “of, the, a, the, for, to, to, or, to, this, as, an.” That’s 12 words out of 51 that you don’t really have to read. Add that up over the extent of a full passage. You essentially cut out 24 percent of the reading without altering the meaning or affecting your understanding.
It takes a certain degree of familiarity with the language to get to the point where you can “gloss over” such words. But if you’re doing your job in your earliest classes, you should be there by college. Learn to race over these types of words and focus on the core terms.
10. Make Notes As You Read
It’s not enough to take good notes in class. You also want to make notes as you read the text. You could do this by jotting them down in the margin, highlighting key sections, or handwriting what you think are the key points.
One thing that always helped us in college was to summarize each section’s main idea after reading it. This can take a little extra time doing at first. However, you’ll come to see that it is easier to understand subsequent passages because you’ve taken the time to learn the foundational concepts.
11. Use Supplemental Resources to Your Advantage
We’ve already touched on many of the supplemental resources that are out there in audio and video form. However, those can require advanced internet connections to truly parse and digest. That’s where the textual aids come in handy.
Look for things like Sparknotes or Cliffs Notes. These take the time to break down key concepts and place them into layman’s terms. You are able to see the written devices at work.
As for textbooks, these often cover topics that many more accessible books and blogs have written about in detail. Find some of the thought leaders in these spaces. Procure any books they’ve written on the subject. Follow their blogs and social media accounts.
Sometimes, it’s the supplemental resource that is able to unlock your understanding to the source material. So, leave no stone unturned in this regard.
12. Find Time to Read for Pleasure
If you worked at a McDonald’s in high school, then the last thing you probably wanted to eat when you got off work was a Big Mac. That’s similar to how you might feel about reading after you’ve plowed through assignment after assignment. Don’t let it get you down, though.
Take some time to read for enjoyment. The act of reading in a way that is fun and accessible will teach you some very valuable reading skills as you move into the more challenging materials.
That may mean less time for television or drinking, but ultimately, you will be glad that you didn’t let the demands of college win out. A love of reading will serve you well long after college is over, so don’t let anything spoil it for you.
Keep Up With Reading Through Your Whole Educational Journey
We know it can be difficult to keep up with reading when you find yourself working towards college graduation and finally getting that degree in hand. Just know we’ve all been there and felt as overwhelmed as you are feeling.
Don’t let it defeat you, though. You live in an age with many workarounds to traditional, line-by-line recitations. Use these resources to your advanage every chance you get. You might find that your obligations are nowhere near as overwhelming as they seem.
Now it’s your turn, readers? What are some tips that you’ve embraced as the reading requirements have grown throughout your educational journey? Share them in the comments section below!
[Featured Image By Wikimedia Commons]