Reading Comprehension: Tips For Improvement

Have you ever read an array of meticulously arranged text that has reappearing keywords, precisely selected terms, and an overall message but in the end, it somehow became incomprehensive? Though it may be arduous to decipher the context or significance behind every sentence within a literary text, it is one of the necessary skills to take into account in both the academic and professional landscape. More often than not, reading comprehension is going to show up in some generalized test and is also inevitable when it comes to exams or other methods of evaluation. 

Fortunately, there is an abundance of ways to improve your reading comprehension skills to the point where you will be ready enough for its general uses. This skill can also allow you to evade certain situations where one can be taken advantage of through maliciously written contracts or agreements, which only shows how much time investment should be allotted to this skill.

You have clicked on the right page, as we will discuss improving this specific facet of your skill set in this article. We will also provide you with additional alternative options that can make the learning experience as enjoyable as possible for you. But first, we have to discuss what kind of environment is most favorable when it comes to sharpening this skill to optimize the efficiency of both your time and effort.

FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

๐Ÿ“š Pick an area that you can concentrate in 

You should select a particular area where you can minimize distractions while performing the other methods in this list. The catalog of the areas is quite diverse and is very subjective since each person feels comfort in specific places differently. Whether in your bedroom, the library, or a nearby coffee shop, you should choose the area where you know you will be the most productive.

๐Ÿ“š Adjusting the auditory elements in your environment

If you live in a city or a busy area, you can use headphones and other sound systems to modify the sound of your environment. You can play music with these devices, though it is highly advisable that you listen to music that contains no lyrics or heavy instrumentals as they can potentially cause distraction. For most people, unwanted noise can disrupt their concentration, so it is best to put on your headphones to block these distractions first.

๐Ÿ“š Mentally prepare yourself before the task at hand.

Highly skilled individuals do not just walk into their respective fields head first without any preparation, especially when they are still beginners. So be in the right mindset before performing the methods, because this skill is not something that you can’t learn in one single session.ย 

Make sure you have a purpose, and constantly remind yourself of said purpose as it will be the outcome you will be waiting for at the end of your practice. As such, you should also avoid pressuring yourself at the same time and remember that this is a time-consuming process after all.

Now we will proceed to the methods that we have provided to improve your reading comprehension skills.

METHODS OF IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION

๐Ÿ“š Learn the rules of the language

Generally speaking, you would want to learn English as it is the most widely-used language internationally. However, in case you want to improve your reading comprehension skills in another language, you must learn the fundamentals first. These fundamentals should include:

  • Proper and concise grammar
  • Contextualization (an example is the whyโ€™s, whatโ€™s, and howโ€™s of each sentence)
  • Knowledge of the commonly used terms 
  • Structuring of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs
  • A general understanding of how the language is being spoken

>>Practice the rules

Though you can explore deeper some of these fundamentals as you train your reading comprehension, they are good baselines to start on. Once you learn the basics of one language, the next step is to start practicing how to process the information despite how complicated it may seem. Think of it as a math problem: being able to understand the numbers and operations to be used is one thing. But being able to solve the equation is comparable to reading comprehension in this case, as it involves understanding how the combination of those numbers leads to a precise answer or message.

>>Resources

When it comes to learning the fundamentals of the English language, you have accessible resources almost everywhere on the internet. You can find videos, applications, blogs, and articles such as this one that can allow you to get fond of reading large amounts of text and knowing why they are structured that way. Once you find one reference that you want to study and comprehend, you can proceed to the following method. Just take note that it is highly advisable that you select a form of literature or a published book to access the next method much more accessible.ย 

๐Ÿ“š Read the summarized version

After you have selected a book or literary text that you will be reading, you should try to find a summary of that first. A summary will give you an overview of what text you will be reading, so take your time to understand it as much as possible. You can write notes from what you have glossed over in the summarized version to contextualize them later when you read the actual literary text.

>>Benefits

Reading the summary will act as a roadmap and a form of preparation before you take on the real road. Summarized forms of literary texts are much more digestible. They are often easier to understand, but they do take some of the contexts and additional information away from the original text. While they are reliable in the sense that they give you something more understandable, to begin with, you should not always use them as an alternative for the actual text as you may find missing links between the two.

>>Outlining

To provide you with an outline of what we mean, summarizing involves condensing and selecting information from the text to provide a shorter version of said text. As such, you may find the actual text much more tedious to read (since the raw information is present there), and it may also contain unique and uncommon words if not already used in the summarized version.

๐Ÿ“šย Get a dictionary

Having a dictionary beside you is always helpful when reading, as you may encounter some unfamiliar or less frequently used words in your reading session. Dictionaries offer short yet concise and digestible definitions for almost every word (granted, it is in the language you are reading), allowing you to figure out the context of each unfamiliar word.ย 

>>Example

To give you a clear analogy of how dictionaries can help you, let us analyze this specific sentence: โ€œTheir lackadaisical performance landed them in last place during the band competition.โ€

In this sentence, there is definitely one outstanding word that is less commonly used than the others. You may or may not know its meaning, but looking it up in a dictionary can allow you to decipher its meaning and figure out its purpose in the sentence. Lackadaisical means lacking in motivation, spirit, or energy, which, if placed in the context of the sentence, means that the subjectโ€™s performance in the band competition lacked life or enthusiasm, which landed them in last place.

Our example is just one of the countless times a dictionary can shed light on the actual meaning of a sentence, especially since not all authors use the commonly used words that English speakers use every day. Your dictionary is not always exclusive to the thick books you havenโ€™t touched yet since your English classes in high school, as they can also be digital dictionaries. One big advantage of digital dictionaries is that they will be updated for new words or resurfacing words from older variations of one language. Unlike books which, of course, stay the way they are the moment after printing.

๐Ÿ“š Analyze the actual message

You should take notes of your initial thoughts or anything you find interesting during the early stages of your reading session. These notes can be useful later on as you try to analyze what overall message the reader is trying to convey to the reader. Some messages can be more subtle than others or you can decipher between the lines. An example would be easter eggs that reference or allude to another piece of media, such as an article, a specific date, or a broadcasted event. Subtle messages can translate to certain implications from the author, which may express their belief or stance with the thing they referenced in their book.

>>Writing notes

When it comes to analyzing the overall message of one book, a good method would be to write two lengthy notes. The first note you must write is the initial part of your reading, which should include the title of the book and how it relates to its first few chapters or sections. You should also write your first impressions or what you expect to learn based on the title and the first parts of the book alone.ย 

The second note is reserved for when you finish the whole book or literary text. In which you will write the overall message that you have learned from the book. Compare the two notes, but do not worry if they arenโ€™t matched with one another because this only means you were able to contextualize the rest of the book (middle to last part) into the overall message. However, you should also remember that the general themes of the text remain on the first and the second note, such as the topic and the implications of the title.

๐Ÿ“š Focusing on one section at a time

If you practiced with a book or a massive piece of literature, you should most definitely chop it into sections to not overwhelm yourself. Though it highly depends on your schedule, attention span, and energy levels, we recommend that you divide the text per chapter (if indicated). Still, as a beginner, each page or paragraph should be enough. While focusing on one particular section, you should also write quotes that may seem interesting or more complicated to comprehend, as these will be useful later on. Writing quotes can also help you contextualize the following sections, just in case you may have glossed over some necessary information from the previous ones.

You can place your annotations or notes in either a notebook or an application since they will be used later on. The page they are located in should be indicated for you to access them with ease. There will definitely be a fair amount of writing on our recommended methods, which can be further explored in the next section. 

๐Ÿ“šย Rewrite what you comprehended

writing to practice reading comprehension

Relating to the previous method, the notes you have garnered from each section should then be analyzed for this next step. While reading the notes and impressions you have jotted down, try to construct an overall comprehension of the whole text. Think of this as the reflections they made you do during one of your classes in school, only now you are in charge of how much you should write. The more you will be able to write, the better, but the thought is that your comprehension should be aligned with the summary, the title, and all the notes you have written along the way.

Seeing the output or physical product of your efforts can be very rewarding, and it can motivate you to repeat the action in the future. What you wrote will not only be useful for the current moment (since you have your summary or overall message of the text) but will also act as a timestamp for future reading sessions. You can compare your current work to the future ones that you will write to see the steady progress, and it can also give you some reference material for things like research and reviews.

๐Ÿ“š Aim to expand your vocabulary

To prepare you for your future ventures in improving your reading comprehension skills, it is best if you aim to expand your vocabulary in your spare time. For this, both the thesaurus and the dictionary are going to be your best friends. The thesaurus provides a variety of synonymous words for common words, and you may pick up some of the less commonly used words through this method. As for the dictionary, you can use the words you have learned from the thesaurus to double-check or verify the minor differences the synonymous words may have, such as the intensity of their meaning (which is especially relevant with adjectives).

>>What to read

We recommend that you consider reading poetry as they are very likely to contain deep or less commonly used words to convey their message. This can also give you an opportunity to improve the abstract aspects of your reading comprehension skills and extract the message from a few texts that contain a larger meaning many may oversee as a mere creative choice. Another way is to listen to educational videos or podcasts, which can use uncommon or unfamiliar words while simultaneously teaching or entertaining you. 

However, one of the efficient ways to expand your vocabulary is to just keep reading on a daily basis. Not only will this help with regularly using your reading comprehension skills, but it will also allow you to see a word, look it up along with its meaning, and remember it for future reading sessions. You can take note of these words if you tend to forget them after a while, so that you can view or read them regularly.

๐Ÿ“š Seeking help from peers

It can be quite beneficial to seek help from your peers who may or may not be aiming to improve their reading comprehension skills as well. Likely candidates for this are your fellow students (if you are still in school), as they are most likely attempting to improve some facets of their reading comprehension as well since you are both in an environment where this skill is essential. Not only can discussing the literary texts or the books you read can improve your understanding of that specific piece of literature, but it can also improve your ability to convey your comprehension through both speeches and thought.

>>Professional help

As for professionals, you can ask a professor or simply someone who is generally well-versed in reading comprehension to tutor you. This can cost money for some people, so you should go for wherever you are most comfortable with or whatever suits your current situation. Some professionals will be willing to teach this particular topic for free, such as those offering free courses in real life and online.

>>Accessible help

If you are unable to find someone in real life, you always have the internet. You can search for forums on certain topics, books, or pieces of literature that aim to discuss or share their thoughts about them. However, this does take away the element of conveying what you comprehended through speech, as you will most likely be typing them instead. 

HOW TO ENJOY READING

Reading a book or large amounts of academic literary texts should be the way to go. But you can substitute them with more entertaining alternatives. One example would be scrolling through intellectual debates or arguments between professionals on social media or forums around the internet. Though this may sound petty, intellectual arguments can actually make you learn a thing or two about a specific topic.ย 

reading comprehension practice
Photo credits: Blaz Photo

In an intellectual argument, two people are bringing up the factual basis for each of their arguments to contradict one another. This setup can be a good training ground for improving your reading comprehension, as you will be able to see the context of one sideโ€™s argument and how the other side will bring up their rebuttal. It is basically listening to a conversation (albeit much more academic and intellectual than casual conversation) while being able to analyze the arguments and stances of each side.

You can pretty much practice your reading comprehension skills just about everywhere information exists, even in video games, where you must understand the gameโ€™s mechanics by reading the instructions. Search for a piece of media that can entertain you while still giving you enough room to focus on practicing your reading comprehension skills. This method requires you to have some discipline not to overindulge while still not making the process as taxing as it may seem.

CULTIVATING A PRODUCTIVE HABIT

Once an activity becomes a habit, it will take less and less energy and effort to perform. So to cultivate this healthy habit of reading and comprehending, you will have to become consistent enough for this productive activity to become a habit of yours. This will not only improve your skills over time but will make the task less taxing for you, and if you apply our previous advice, it can also become much more enjoyable to do. For this particular reason, we highly recommend that you cultivate this habit by reading every day while applying our previously mentioned methods.

We also recommend that while you can opt to write your takeaways from the texts you read, you should also practice extracting their meaning in your mind as well. This helps you mentally process your takeaways and not rely on a physical medium such as a piece of paper to get a good grip on the textโ€™s meaning. You can cultivate this skill by having intrapersonal discussions with yourself while reading a particular text and applying our earlier methods without using applications or pen and paper. Though this may seem difficult, it is a skill worth practicing since you generally need to process the text mentally with precision the moment you finish reading or re-reading it.

BOTTOM LINE

There is clearly no definite timeframe when it comes to cultivating and improving your reading comprehension skills, as it depends on each individual. So do not be discouraged if your pace of learning seems to have slowed down, as it is all part of the process. Acknowledging the โ€œslow pacingโ€ is a sign of learning, as you are becoming more and more self-aware of how high of a standard you are aiming for. Just remember to take breaks over time as growth requires both practice and rest to become effective.

Your reading comprehension skills are necessary in the world of professionalism and academics. So the fact that you are choosing to improve it now shows that you care a great deal about your future. Now the following step is to begin cultivating it with our recommended methods.

If you have improved after reading this article, you can check our next topic by clicking here! This will talk about improving your listening skills!

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