The following handout outlines some tips for improving your reading comprehension.


Before Reading

  • Build a Foundation: Sometimes the best introduction to a new subject is a shorter, simpler presentation. Begin with an alternative text, such as an encyclopedia entry or critic’s review.
  • Preview: Flip through the entire assignment before beginning. For textbooks, begin with the chapter summary. Read the chapter review. As when studying a map, look for key landmarks along your journey.
  • Generate Questions: Take time to wonder before you begin. Then seek answers to specific questions as you read, particularly those that start with “What….?” and “Why….?”

During Reading

  • Develop Vocabulary: Use dictionaries and glossaries. Learn word roots. Decode meaning through context. Add new vocabulary to a personal dictionary; review these new terms often and incorporate them into your everyday communication.
  • Stop to Summarize: Make a habit of condensing and re-stating key points and passages in your own words. This can be done aloud or in writing. Use section breaks and the ends of pages as your cues to stop.
  • List and Answer Questions: Anything unclear? Make a note and be sure to follow-up later with another resource, your professor or a peer.

After Reading

  • Create Concept Maps: Generate a simple, visual framework that differentiates main ideas, supporting details, and examples, shows relationships, or clarifies hierarchy or order.
  • Write a Summary: Same idea as above. Capture the gist of what you read in a simple outline, or in a few paragraphs.
  • Take a Quiz: If your text book has quizzes or review questions at the end of chapters, complete them! This is a great way to assess how well you retained the chapter content.
  • Collaborate: Meet with a classmate to discuss highlights, compare notes, address points of confusion, brainstorm test questions, and stay motivated.

Download PDF: Reading Comprehension Tips

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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