How to Read Effectively at College, University, and Graduate Level

author By Mary Boies

If you plan to get a higher GPA in high school, college, or university, you must be prepared to read. Reading is a vital learning activity at the university that exposes you to language and knowledge in your preferred field. It is the crux of participating in classes, completing assignments, and performing well in exams and assessments. World over, everything is communicated in writing, which means you will actively and passively be reading your entire life.

You might wonder, ?what is effective reading? How does one read effectively? How can I become an effective reader? Or the types of effective reading methods or techniques. All these questions will be past tense once you read this guide, where we take you through the steps and tips for effective reading skills.

Let?s first begin by looking at what active reading entails and how to do it as we proceed to other related concepts in the advanced sections of this article.

Active Reading as an Ingredient to Effective Reading

Active reading means reading something with the determination to understand and evaluate it for its relevance to your reading objective. It is one of the study reading skills that keep you focused on your reading goals. You can read actively by asking questions as you read and trying to read creatively. It is a great idea to think of subject-related pre-reading questions.

Active reading primarily entails:

You can ask questions when collecting information, writing, and forming an opinion.

Questions when gathering data or information:

Questions when writing a piece of task:

Questions when forming your opinion:

Reading Techniques for College and University Students

As part of reading effectively, you must prepare to read different texts or even different sections of the exact text differently. Technically, this will depend on your purpose for reading the specific text. Research has shown that your thinking speed can affect your thinking speed. Therefore, if information or ideas demand in-depth understanding, it is imperative to read slowly. Selecting a good reading technique depends on why you are reading in the first place:

With the aim in mind, you can mix the reading techniques to achieve it. For instance, you can scan to find the critical passages and then reflectively read to get the content. Below are some common reading techniques to consider for effective academic reading.

Critical or Reflective Reading

Reflective or critical reading is significant in building your understanding and knowledge. It entails thinking about the questions you want to answer based on the reading. It also involves reading actively as you search for answers and looking for any indication of the structure of the chapter or signpost (maps)s given by the author.

When reading critically, you must follow through with an argument by looking at its structure, explicitly focusing on main points, sub-points, reasons, qualifications, evidence, illustrations, or examples.

Focus on the phrases that indicate structure or signposts. For instance, ?there are three core reasons, First, ?, Secondly?, etc.? or words that emphasize main ideas such as ?Most importantly?.? ?Fundamentally??

Also, focus on the connecting words that might indicate separate but related steps in an argument. In most cases, after reading a chunk, you should take brief notes to record the details you have read, including the specific page numbers or lines. As you wind up the chapter or an article, put it aside and go over the notes to ensure that you have adequately read and reflected on the main points. You need to assess how the information has added to your knowledge and whether it will help you make good judgement in your essay or paper. Also, evaluate your stand on the arguments, methodologies, and evidence. As yourself:

Reflective reading helps you connect to the text, enjoy it, and understand its worth. It also helps inform your opinion on a topic with evidence from the text.

As you read critically, compare different parts of the text to determine ideas' logical, chronological, and consistent development. You can then link information from one part to the broader structure and narrative of the text. Critical reading also involves reading the text or article closely. You will engage the text closely, especially if it is highly valuable and relevant to your purpose of reading. By closely, we mean paying attention to the thesis and the finer details of the text. Close reading helps you to predict, interpret, and connect ideas. You get to a personal level with the author as you enter their thoughts and world. You can spot synonyms, repeated words, keywords, phrases, and other ideas. It is a rewarding practice within critical reading that helps you get insights into the text or article at a deeper level. You will mostly be going deeper compared to scanning or skimming.

Rapid Reading

As the name suggests, this explosive reading approach is excellent for scanning and skim-reading. However, it is more important to understand what you are reading than to read quickly and gain little or nothing, the point at which you can misjudge a text or article. It entails reading at high speeds and is highly unlikely when you want to do a critical or reflective reading.

If you want to improve your reading speed or you are concerned that you are reading slowly:

The more you practice reading faster, the more you grow more familiar with scholarly language, specialist jargon or vocabulary, and theories as well as ideas.


Scan-reading is perfect for locating and extracting details from a text. It entails finding out where the detail is by perusing and previewing the text first, followed by reading the specific part that addresses your reading objective. It is effective for searching for particular information or finding out what part of the text is relevant. You can do this in two ways:

Skim Reading

Skim reading helps you to gain an overview quickly, understand the structure for note-taking, or familiarize yourself with an article or chapter.

It is important when reading for an essay or research paper because you can determine if the scholarly source is worth including in the references. It entails moving through the text quickly while focusing on the main points and the overall message rather than the details.

You can opt to pay attention to the first and last sentences in a paragraph or read through the abstract, introduction, and conclusion of an article. You can also skim-read a text or material by looking for repeated keywords or concepts and how the ideas in the material are developed around them.

To skim-read effectively:

Steps for Effective Reading for University and College Students

You will be expected to do pre-reading in preparation for lectures in college or university. Your instructor will assign you reading materials each week; some might want a reflection on the reading to assess whether or not you read.

Other times, you will read the class materials and write discussion posts and responses where you engage with peers over the material you read. You will most likely be assigned to tutorials based on the assigned readings. You will need the information and knowledge to participate in online or in-class group discussions.

Finally, you will also read research materials to get scholarly sources for assignments, essays, and research papers. The aim of most of the reading you will be doing in university or college will be to seek information related to the coursework material and assignments.

Because university readings are complex and sometimes very technical, you will need to hone your reading skills. Here are some tips, steps, and insights on how to read for university, college, or high school-level materials for assignments, assessments, and exams.

1.    Find a Good Reading Place

One of the most fundamental aspects of reading effectively is finding a good place to study. Some of the most recommended places to set up before reading effectively include:

As long as an area is distraction-free, well-lit, has a comfortable place to sit or place your laptop, and is welcoming to your reading juices, choose it as a place to read any material. Picking a conducive location to read from sets you up for success, as does setting goals for the reading.

When reading, you will need to keep the background noise minimum. Truth be told, listening to loud rock music will not make you a better reader.

If anything, it will distract your reading, reducing the amount of information you can digest as you read. The same applies to other distractions: social media, talking to roommates, phone notifications, kids playing nearby, and television or radio sounds.

You want to give yourself a quiet environment with an ambience that welcomes your concentration on whatever you are reading.

Related Article: Good places to read effectively.

2.    Schedule Time to Read

Reading becomes easy if you schedule and plan everything around. You have assessed the type of learner you are and when you concentrate and understand things that you read. Therefore, you need to schedule time within the week to do your reading for each class.

When you have a time limit for reading a specific material, you are most likely to concentrate and get it over and done with before the time elapses, making you an effective reader.

You don?t have to spend long hours reading. Instead, schedule time to read in bits. You can read for two hours and then take 15-20 minutes breaks.

A routine will help you stick to your schedule and prepare you psychologically for the reading materials ahead of time. If possible, have reminders and a study guide that you follow religiously.

3.    Choose What to Read

In many cases, you will not be expected to read all the books and articles on your list. This is taking into consideration of the time limits and sometimes the availability of the reading material.

 If you are focusing on reading to understand a topic, you can go outside the reading materials only if you are done with the core and recommended readings for the subject or class. You will need to search for the current topic through your library website to get updates on recent developments.

You can also ask your instructor for recommendations of texts on the topics or consult with a librarian. If you are reading for an assignment or task, use the keywords from the task to search for the relevant sources.

Many scholarly sources are available online, and you are good to go if you can connect the key concepts discussed in the subject or class. Consider reading empirical papers rather than theoretical readings, especially those that are recent (published within the last ten years), unless it is a groundbreaking, seminal, or primary source.

Related Readings:

4.    Take Notes as You Read

We already covered the different ways of reading effectively recommended for anyone reading for university or college assignments and assessments. Whatever reading style and approach works for you, it is vital to take notes while at it. Taking notes helps you record ideas you can later use in your university essay, college assignments, or other study activities. If you take clear and organized notes when reading a text or an article, you will not need to re-read it unless you are quickly skimming or scanning for specific details. Effective notes go beyond just highlighting and annotation, and taking effective notes should help you:

While in university or college, to read for understanding and take notes effectively in the process:

This famous SQ3R reading strategy helps you glean as much information as possible from a text. You can also use the Preview, Read, and Recall (PRR) reading method to read comprehension instead of passively scanning or skimming a text.

It is a proven strategy that works well when preparing for college or university essay exams and other assessments. Most importantly, when reading, try to connect multiple readings by cross-checking the content. 

Note the common findings from different sources that support your arguments. You can also juxtapose two contradictory results that highlight a problem. Consider the order of priority of the main ideas and theses of the respective reading materials.

5.    Review and Recall what you?ve Read

Whether you use the SQ3R or the PRR reading method, you will review and recall what you have read. After taking detailed notes, you should now checklist what you have read to ensure that you have made progress. Assessing your reading efficiency matters more because it gives you a sense of direction. At this point, you need to:

After recalling comes a brief session of reviewing or revisiting what you have read. This comes as you conclude your study session or period. The step entails confirming the accuracy of your notes against the original text so that you can clarify if you remember what you have been reading. If possible, try to read through the notes the next day and also through the questions you noted as you wrote, and you can then answer them from your memory.

If you are reading for a class or coursework, review the notes frequently to help you understand and apply the knowledge during exams. The more you review readings throughout the semester, the higher the chances you will pass because you will comprehend the content and not cram during exam periods.

Tips for Effective Reading in University and College

The correct effective reading definition means reading so that you understand, evaluate, and reflect on the written text, assigned reading, or article. Good reading skills are important for college and university students, and even at the graduate level, skills in reading texts, manuscripts, and empirical research is desirable. Below are some tips for using to read anything effectively:

That?s it for now. However, ?

As you begin your university study, you will be expected to do a daunting amount of reading. Even when it appears impossible to read an entire text, everything is achievable when you become an active reader. Every course in college and university involves a great deal of reading. If you apply the tips we have shared in this article, you will hone your skills to read effectively and efficiently.

To read effectively and critically, engage with texts by setting clear goals, evaluating the sources, using different reading approaches, asking questions, synthesizing information, and recalling and reviewing what you have read.

Taking good notes is also pertinent during the reading process. Learning through reading is better than hurriedly cramming a text with the hope of passing an exam.

You will need good reading skills for your personal, academic, and career/professional life. For now, we can only wish you the very best as you enjoy the process of reading.

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