How To Understand What You Read: 14 Top Strategies

This article has everything you need to know about how to understand what you read.

Have you ever reached the end of a page only to realize that you have been lost in your thoughts? This is a common experience that most people have had at some point. Sometimes we may not have enough time or find a particular reading material uninteresting, which makes it challenging to continue reading.

However, there is good news – by learning how to read effectively and take concise notes, the process of reading becomes much simpler, faster, and enjoyable. For more details, refer to Step 1.

How To Understand What You Read:

1. To read effectively, it is important to minimize any distractions that may hinder your concentration.

This involves stepping away from any electronic devices such as computers, TVs, and also avoiding any background music. Concentrating on challenging reading material is difficult when your attention is divided. Therefore, creating a quiet and comfortable environment free from any distractions is crucial for close reading.

Additionally, you can make reading enjoyable by indulging in a snack or a drink, lighting a scented candle, or reading in the bath to make the experience as comfortable as possible. This is especially useful for reading material that you are not particularly excited about.

2. It is helpful to begin by skimming through the reading material before delving into close reading, particularly if the material is challenging.

This may involve peeking ahead to see the ending without worrying about spoiling the reading experience. If you find yourself having to restart a paragraph, consider skimming through the entire book or story to grasp the plot, main characters, and tone. This will provide a sense of direction and help you focus on essential elements as you proceed to read more closely.

Alternatively, you could read summaries of the book online or refer to Cliff’s Notes (1) to make the reading process easier. However, it is important to note that some teachers may not approve of such shortcuts, and using them may lead to a lower grade. It is vital to remember to go back and read through the material carefully to get a full understanding of it.

3. One effective technique to improve reading comprehension is to visualize what you are reading.

You can imagine yourself as a movie director, bringing the characters and events to life in your mind. This can be achieved by visualizing the actions as vividly as possible, casting characters with actors or creating mental images of the setting.

This technique not only makes the reading experience more enjoyable but also helps you to remember and comprehend what you have read. By using your imagination, you can better engage with the reading material and connect with the storyline.

4. Reading out loud is a technique that can help to maintain focus and interest in the material being read.

Some individuals find it easier to comprehend and engage with the text when they read out loud. You can find a quiet space, such as a locked room or a basement, and read the material in a dramatic manner.

This technique can be especially beneficial if you tend to skim over the text too quickly, as it can help to slow down the reading pace. Additionally, if you find the reading material uninteresting, reading it out loud can add a dramatic and engaging element to the experience.

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5. It is advisable to research any unfamiliar words, locations or concepts encountered during the reading process.

Although context clues may help in identifying the meaning of the unfamiliar elements, it is beneficial to take some time to understand any references that may be unclear. This will make the reading process smoother and easier.

Furthermore, in an academic setting, researching an unfamiliar word or concept will often earn you extra points, making it a valuable habit to adopt.

6. It is crucial to take breaks during the reading process.

Allow sufficient time to read, ensuring that you have enough time to complete it without rushing. Take frequent breaks after reading for 45 minutes and relax for 15 minutes or switch to other homework assignments.

This allows the mind to rest and focus on other things for a while, ensuring that you stay alert and engaged during the reading process. After taking a break, you can return to the reading material feeling refreshed and eager to continue.

7. An effective way to actively engage with the text is by marking it up.

You can write questions in the margin, underline interesting sections, or highlight crucial concepts and ideas. Some readers find that holding a pencil or highlighter makes them a more active reader, giving them a sense of engagement while reading.

However, it is important not to overdo it, as highlighting or underlining too much may make it difficult to study and comprehend the material later on. Instead, highlight or underline strategically, based on what is most important or relevant to the reading.

Additionally, creating a character or plot map can be helpful for visual learners (2) as it can aid in understanding the story and serve as a useful tool for later studying.

8. To make reading a difficult text easier and more efficient, try taking it one page at a time and writing a few sentences of summary at the bottom of each page.

This will help you break up the reading into smaller, more manageable chunks and ensure that you don’t miss anything important. By summarizing what happened on each page, you’ll also be able to better retain the information and follow along with the story.

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9. When you encounter something in your reading that is difficult to understand, take note of it by writing down any questions that you have.

These questions can be used as a reference when you discuss the reading in class, or as a way to engage more deeply with the material. By writing down your questions, you give yourself the opportunity to clarify and deepen your understanding of what you’re reading.

10. After finishing your reading, it’s a good idea to take a moment to write down your reactions to the story.

Reflect on what you found important, what you think the author’s intent was, and how the reading made you feel. This doesn’t need to be a summary of the text, but summarizing the key points could be useful in helping you remember what you’ve read.

11. Gather with your classmates or friends to discuss the reading material, which can be a helpful way to deepen your understanding and retain information.

You can exchange your own reactions with others and compare them, and try to explain any difficult or unclear parts of the reading to each other. Avoid simply declaring the reading as “boring”, and instead, offer your own insight to help your friends. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, try vocalizing your thoughts out loud to yourself as this can also aid in the learning process.

12. Consider generating open-ended inquiries to investigate the material.

Create a list of questions in your notebook that could make compelling discussion points to raise during class or a study group. Although some teachers may assign this task, it can help you engage with the reading regardless.

Avoid asking questions that have a one-word answer like “yes” or “no.” Asking “how” questions can prompt more profound reflection and stimulate deeper thinking.

13. Use post-it notes to mark important pages that you may want to refer to later.

By doing this, you can quickly find specific pages or passages that you might need to refer to, rather than wasting time trying to locate them later on.

14. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the characters and try to understand how you would have acted if you were in their place.

Think about how you would feel if the main character was in your class or room, or how it would be to be married to them. Discuss your thoughts with others who have read the same book and compare your answers.

Analyzing the text from different perspectives can help you better understand and appreciate the book. So, immerse yourself in the book and try to connect with the characters to enhance your reading experience.

To understand what you read, there are several strategies you can use. First, you should try to eliminate distractions and focus on the text. If you encounter unfamiliar words, locations, or ideas, you should look them up.

Take frequent breaks while reading and try to mark up the text, writing questions in the margin and highlighting important concepts. It can be helpful to write a few sentences of summary at the bottom of each page and write down any questions you have about what you read.

After finishing reading, you can write down your reactions, discuss the reading with classmates, and think about open-ended questions that explore the reading. You can also put yourself in the characters’ shoes to better understand and interact with the text.

Thank you for reading this article about how to understand what you read and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here