One of the most time-consuming and difficult homework tasks in college is often just a reading assignment. Although there are ways to conquer long reading assignments, they only break up the assignments so that they aren’t as overwhelming, rather than helping to actually understand the material. After all, not only can college reading be overly complex, but the sheer amount of content can be extremely overwhelming.
So how can students dissect and understand complex reading assignments? This post breaks it down into 5 steps:
1. Divide Up the Reading Assignment Throughout the Week
Reading assignments are complex, and the last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself by trying to do it all at once. That’s why I recommend taking the number of pages you have to read, divide it by the number of days you have until it needs to be read by, and then read that number of pages each day.
By dividing the assignment up throughout the week, not only will it help you to get it done faster (due to slowness from lack of interest/attention span), but you’ll understand and retain the information better, too!
2. Look Up Definitions
Truthfully, my teachers used to tell the class this all the time when I was a kid and I absolutely hated it. It wasn’t that I had a problem with searching up the definitions, it was that once I got into a groove with reading, I didn’t want to continually stop to look up what a word meant; I preferred to just take my chances and guess it from context.
However, it doesn’t quite work that way in college. After assigning a class reading, professors will sometimes give a quiz that asks students to define one of the words from the reading, and (lucky us) it isn’t multiple choice. While it seems like an easy enough question, professors aren’t always happy with a definition you guessed at just based on the context.
Because of that, it’s important to look up the definitions in your reading! Not only will it help out with pop quizzes like these, but it will also give you a better understanding of the reading and topic that you’ll be discussing in class.
3. Take Detailed Notes from the Passages
When it comes to college reading assignments, this is the time to take note of every detail possible. However, don’t just quote a passage into your notes, especially if you’re not even understanding it in the book!
Instead, re-read it and break it down until it’s as simple as you can possibly make it…then you can write it down, create diagrams, draw pictures, etc. Do whatever it is that will help you understand it and give you as much information on the subject as possible. After all, you never know when your professor will decide to randomly make a test or quiz open notes!
When taking notes, think of them as a simplified version of the textbook. That way, any time that you’re preparing for a test or answering the questions on a study guide, you don’t have to spend hours searching through a book just to spend even more time re-reading and dissecting a passage (again) just to find the information again. Essentially, as long as you take enough notes, then everything should be in your binder and will make studying 100x easier than if you had rushed through it.
4. Highlight/Underline/Bookmark Important Passages
The previous note just talked about how you should make your notes so detailed that you won’t have to reference the textbook ever again. So why am I recommending that you highlight/underline/bookmark important passages?
If you’re taking the effort to underline, highlight, and bookmark important passages in your reading assignment, you are making a conscious effort to interact with the reading assignment, and because of that you’re more likely to remember the important information!
Plus, not only does it helps with memorization, but also if you need to write a paper referencing that reading assignment later on in the class. Because you marked those important passages, you already know where to look for the important information, which makes writing those papers easier than ever!
5. Create a Timeline of Important Dates
One of the most difficult reading assignments many students have is history, often because the dates and events can be listed out of order in certain passages. Not only does this make understanding the reading harder, but also the timeline of events!
That’s why creating an timeline of important dates and events in your notes is important when dissecting your reading assignments. Creating a timeline of dates can also be a lifesaver when studying for an exam, making understanding just why those events and their relation to each other much easier.
College reading assignments can be complex, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to understand! By following these tips, you’ll not only be able to dissect your reading assignments, but conquer them, as well.
Have you used any of these tips to break down your reading assignments before? Or have you used any others that I haven’t heard of? Let me know down below!