How to get the most out of your readings

A large part of your University life will be spent sitting on your butt, doing your assigned readings.  While some classes assign little, and some classes assign none, readings are the one thing you may not be able to escape during your time in Uni.  We are told doing the readings are important, but sometimes, it can all feel so abstract, that you don’t really see the sense in carrying on.  But, from experience, readings are more important than we sometimes think.

So here are some tips for making the most out of your readings.

Figure out why your professor is assigning the reading

Your professor is obviously assigning those particular pages for a reason.  They want you to start making links between the material you are seeing in class, and the reading material.  Therefore, before I start a reading, I like to flip through the pages, and scan the chapter titles, the headers and sub-headers, to get a proper feel for the themes addressed in the class.  Sometimes, I even read the conclusion before the rest of the chapter, to really get a sense of the larger message within the pages.

Don’t just highlight

We all do it.  We highlight almost half the page because we think they are important passages, but then we never crack open those pages again.  I think with assigned readings, it is incredibly important to take reading notes. It means a longer time commitment, but from experience it is worth it in the long run.  I like to highlight a few key passages and references from each subhead section, and then transcribe them.  Alternatively, you could write chapter summaries for every chapter you are assigned.  It is less of a time commitment, and you still get the gist drilled in your head.


Talk about the readings

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  Often times, professors will try to spark a discussion in class about the readings for that week.  Sometimes, you can hear crickets in the class.  However, these times are a great opportunity to ask questions, or talk about interesting points within a reading.  Sometimes, classmates will bring up points from the reading that you didn’t quite understand, or see as important at the time.  Also, the more you talk about something you read, the more it gets in your head.

Do your readings as part of study dates

To do your readings, at least in my experience, I have found that I need to be extremely concentrated, or I get bored or distracted very easily.  When you decide to do your readings when you are studying with friends, you can find it to be easier to concentrate.  Knowing someone else is there to hold you accountable, it can be the push in the butt you need to keep on plugging through those pages.