How to Survive the Reading Workload as an English Major

A schedule full of English classes comes with a reading list that may often seem slightly overwhelming at first. One of the leading reasons for failure in the English department is the inability to keep up with assigned reading, which causes students to stress out and lose the motivation to continue. 

But before you can even begin to start writing essays and completing other homework, it’s more than likely that you will have had to understand concepts from various books and articles throughout the semester. Don’t let this freak you out though! With just a few slight changes in your routine and planning strategies, you can easily maneuver your way through all literature classes. Here are a few helpful tips to ensure that you tackle this year’s reading list without pulling your hair out.

1. Plan ahead! 

The most important thing you can do before even opening up a book is plan plan plan. One of the easiest ways to do this is by keeping a weekly planner that you can use to keep track of which books, chapters, and pages you’ll be reading on any given day so that nothing will ever sneak up on you. If you know that on Tuesday you’ll be studying for a stat exam, make sure to jot down that you’ll be finishing up Hamlet on Wednesday instead.

2. Divide up pages

Instead of writing down that you’ll read a bit of an assigned novel each day, actually try dividing the book into sections and allotting a certain amount of pages for every day of the week (yes, even weekends). For example, if you have 2 weeks to read a 200-page book, plan to read 100 pages one week and another 100 pages for the next week. Within those weeks, plan to read 25 pages a day for four days out of the week or, if you’re short on time, select 2 days out of each week and read 50 pages during both of them. You can allow yourself to read a bit more if you have extra time but try to avoid reading any less than you’d planned in order to keep up with the schedule.

3. Choose a time

Select a time each day that will be dedicated to reading, whether it be first thing in the morning when you wake up or right before bed. Try to choose the same time every day, one that is most convenient for your schedule. Consistency is key- the more you stick to the routine, the more it will become a natural habit.

4. Don’t just skim!

It happens to the best of us- our eyes are glancing over the page but our minds are elsewhere. Before we know it, we’ve skimmed through 10 pages without internalizing a single sentence of information. Try to avoid this by clearing your mind before reading so that you can focus entirely on the novel in your hands. Take your time. If you’ve allotted enough time for reading each day, you shouldn’t have much of a reason to rush. If reading slowly is what helps you to truly process and understand, slower is better. Reading quickly just to get it all done is just as bad as not reading at all- you remember the same amount.

5. Take notes

If you feel like you’ve just read something especially significant, stick a post-it on that page and write a bit of feedback. Not only does this help you stay focused, but it also provides points of reference for you to return to if necessary. As much as we’d like it to be, it isn’t really possible to remember every little thing we read, making these notes even more crucial because they serve as small memory triggers.


If you’re following all of the steps mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no reason for you to wait until the last minute and cram all of the reading into one night. Not only will this make you less productive, but it will also bring you a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress (and no one needs more of that). Just trust the process and plan ahead, it will all be completed slowly but surely.

Always remember: You got this. Happy reading!