One thing that many high school students don’t expect when they go to college is the unspoken rule that you’re much more responsible for yourself. That means than rather having a highly specific homework assignment, such as doing problems #1-15 on page 23, you’ll often just be told to read a certain section of a book and be prepared to discuss it in class.
A lot of students seem to think that this means they have no homework at all. After all, it’s not like your professor can tell mark off points for reading or not reading because they can’t tell if you’ve done it! The truth is that there is no embarrassment quite like the one you feel when your professor asks you a question about the text during discussion and it’s painfully obvious that you haven’t read it. Aside from that, though – it’s extremely difficult to pass a class without knowing the material.
With that said, here are a few ways to make your reading assignments more manageable, especially when you have several at once, as well as to make sure you’re getting the most out of the information.
Learn which passages to skip. Okay, this might seem a little weird – we’re teaching you how not to read in the middle of a post about reading. In most scenarios, though, you’ll save time, better absorb information, and avoid confusing yourself if you know when to skip sections that aren’t important. The best way to do this is first to skim the chapter, then go back and read more carefully if you don’t feel like you got the gist of a certain section.
Have a goal in mind. This practice is particularly helpful with the previous one. Do you know what you’re setting out to accomplish when you read a section of a book? If you do, you can help yourself stay on-task with your reading. If your task is to understand a particular historical event, don’t get sidetracked by someone’s family history if it isn’t directly relevant. If your task is to find a quote that supports your point in a research paper, then again, you can save time and avoid getting distracted if you keep this in mind.
Highlight and take notes. You bought a fancy pack of highlighters at the beginning of the year…now it’s time to break them out! Try to pay attention if something seems interesting, useful, or worthy of discussion in class. You’ll impress your professor and better comprehend the material. If you’re going to have an exam on this material later, take notes in an organized manner so you don’t have to study straight from the book.
Take a breather and reflect. Every couple of pages, try to recap what you just read. Can you recite everything back to yourself? Would you be able to tell a friend about it if they had forgotten to read the material and you saw them before class? This is a little self-exam that helps you understand whether you’re truly understanding the words you’re reading, and the more often you do it, the more information you’ll absorb. You’ll thank yourself during the final exam.