Managing College Reading Assignments
Updated October 11, 2022 • 5 min read
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Nearly every student has stared down hundreds of pages of reading in a week; these helpful techniques can make it more manageable.
Keeping up with college reading assignments can be overwhelming. Reading intensifies in college, placing more responsibility on students to manage their time efficiently. Working professionals, individuals returning to college, and those who struggle with reading often find it challenging to meet college reading requirements.
This guide is designed to help enrollees manage college reading assignments. We provide techniques for learners to budget their time, enhance comprehension, and locate resources to help with readings.
How Much Is Too Much Reading in College?
Most college classes require homework, reading, and other assignments outside of the classroom. The amount of reading varies by class, with textbook chapters, articles, and comparable materials assigned each week.
In 2017, undergraduate students reported spending just over 14 hours each week reading, although some disciplines have higher reading requirements, especially in upper-division coursework. English majors, for example, may have entire novels to read weekly, while engineering students spend more time reading articles and lab reports rather than long texts.
Students struggling to keep up with reading can contact their instructors to discuss reasonable solutions. Campus resources also help learners develop speed-reading and time management skills.
How To Read for College Classes
Students can employ several strategies to effectively and efficiently read for college classes. Each learner should identify the length of their assignment, determine the goal of the reading, and make sure they understand the instructor's expectations.
How thorough your reading needs to be depends on the material. A textbook may offer very general information that you can skim, while an article or primary source document can include very specific, niche content. Students should also consider their course load and specific due dates when deciding how to manage college reading assignments effectively.
Find a quiet place to read. Noises and interruptions, along with online distractions, can pull your focus elsewhere. Online reading makes it very easy to open another website or application instead of staying on track. Many electronics allow users to limit the time they spend on apps, which may be helpful for some learners.
Read with Intention
Try to identify the intent of the reading before you begin. Think big picture: What does the instructor hope you take away from an assignment, and how does the reading relate to the course or an upcoming assessment? An introductory textbook chapter will have less technical information, but often serves as the backbone for future reading. Learners should make sure that they understand the content in anticipation of later work.
Make Your Reading Game Plan
Establishing a plan for reading is your key to success. You can often skim readings, especially if you have previous knowledge of the content. Rather than reading hundreds of pages all at once, it's best to break assignments into sections for better comprehension.
Try the Pomodoro Method: Read for 25 minutes, take a short break, and then return to your reading. Complete this cycle four times before taking an extended break. This helps you stay focused and engaged with the material.
Engage With the Text
Active reading is a highly effective way to engage with a text. Some students simply underline and highlight text, while others add side notes or jot down additional thoughts. Use your notes to keep track of arguments as they develop, identify topic sentences and supporting evidence, and identify introduction and conclusion statements.
When an unknown word arises, look it up to make sure you understand the appropriate meaning and context. As you read, write down any questions the assignment provokes. It may also help to read aloud or discuss readings with classmates to clarify information.
Taking notes while reading increases engagement and helps students retain important information from a reading assignment. Notes serve as a shorthand, helping learners find information in a text without rereading the entire assignment.
Writing down main ideas and supporting details also facilitates comprehension and builds retention. Try creating an outline with topic sentences and supporting information. Additional methods include boxing, charting, and mapping. Ultimately, the ideal note-taking method is the one that aligns with your personal learning style.
Sum It Up
Upon completing a reading assignment, try writing a summary organized by section or chapter. This will help you identify key points and takeaways while clarifying which ideas and concepts need further study. Keeping an annotated bibliography with brief descriptions of each work over the course of a semester is an efficient way to keep track of sourcing, arguments, and overall application to a course, topic, or degree.
Don't Sacrifice Your Sleep
To keep up with reading, students often forego sleep. Staying awake to finish a reading assignment may seem like a good idea, but it can often work against a learner's interests. When you're pushing through fatigue, comprehension goes down. Similarly, it's hard to discuss the work, articulate your thoughts, or even make it to class on time when you're too tired.
Demonstrate Your Engagement
Participating in discussion, asking questions, and relating a reading to course ideas demonstrates comprehension to instructors. Students who participate in class may also see improvement on formal assessments and general critical thinking.
Know Your Limits
Unforeseen distractions, an inability to concentrate, and other obligations may derail your efforts to read, but stick with it. If you find that a reading is too difficult to complete, talk to your instructor rather than continuing to struggle or misunderstand the content.
Do You Read Everything in College?
College students vary significantly in their approaches to reading assignments. Some learners read every word and take meticulous notes, while others skim, jotting down notes. Some students never read anything for a course — they may not even buy the book.
Instructors often give reading quizzes and assignments to assess whether or not students have done the reading. Class discussions also serve as checks on learners: Individuals who do not speak in class can't effectively demonstrate their understanding, so the instructor might assume they didn't do the reading.
Finding the "right way" to read means identifying your learning style and adapting accordingly. Skipping an assignment may work against a student in both the short- and long-term. Not being able to participate in a discussion or failing a quiz can have ramifications for an entire course. However, while college reading assignments are crucial, not all readings require the same close attention. Think about the big picture, and make sure you're prioritizing your time appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is College-Level Reading?
This term refers to the difficulty of reading assignments that postsecondary students must complete outside of the classroom. While difficulty varies by discipline and assignment, college-level reading usually includes increased technical terminology and more detailed information than reading found at the high-school level.
Should I Take Notes While Reading a Book?
Taking notes while reading a book is a great way to pull out main ideas and retain information. It also helps you find specific lines later. Students should take notes that refer back to other readings and can help them with future assignments.
How Can College Students Improve Reading Skills?
To improve reading skills, it helps to stay actively engaged with content, acknowledge your strengths and limitations, and find the methods that best work for you as an individual. Taking notes, asking questions, and having a clear understanding of expectations can all help improve reading skills.
How Can I Remember What I Read?
To retain information from your reading assignments, you need to engage with the text, maintain focus, and summarize the contents through notes and verbal discussions. Some students need to read something more than once to remember it effectively; if this is you, be sure to budget time for a second read-through.
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