Reading For Maximum Understanding
The ability to read effectively is a highly significant skill in order to gain a deeper and broader understanding of the world. Indeed, reading plays a huge role in illuminating the path towards the discovery of knowledge, be it understanding an existing topic deeper or learning a completely new concept. However, there is a crucial distinction between reading for the sake of leisure and reading to truly learn. Since most subjects in school are taught in English, a high level of reading comprehension in English is a fundamental skill for doing well in school. Hence the vital question arises: how can one read for maximum understanding?
In this article, we discuss ways to improve reading comprehension, including making notes for passages or articles, studying in groups, and developing practical methods, such as analysing a text broadly and splitting up long passages.
First, maximum comprehension of a text stems from understanding how to make notes for the passage or article that we are reading. While it may be tempting to simply allow one’s eyes to glide over the words in front of us and pretend towards a certain level of productivity (as I have done on too many occasions!), such a manner of reading does not lead to understanding. Thus, making notes ensures that one stays alert instead of drifting off into a pretence of being alert. Making notes is also especially helpful in maximising understanding when faced with especially complex academic articles or unfamiliar subjects. This is because taking notes forces us to process what we read into a manner of writing that is much more familiar and accessible to us. Hence it is much easier to follow the argument of the author. When we return to refresh our memories regarding what the article was on, we can simply refer to the notes we have made earlier instead of painstakingly trawling through the entire document again. Such a method was especially useful when studying for GP and English – it made absorbing information much more efficient. Indeed, even for the PSLE, such a method could be applied to reading comprehension passages in order to acutely understand information needed for answering questions.
Next, while taking notes is an individual endeavour, one-on-one or group coaching or tuition can also aid students to read for maximum understanding. After reading a specific topic or chapter, the learner can paraphrase the text in his/her own words. Doing this can clarify essential concepts before doing practices. Peer teaching in groups enhances understanding because beginners in the topic are compelled to explain new concepts to their peers in an accessible manner.
Third, instead of aiming to understand every single word in an article, it is much more effective to understand the structure of the author’s arguments first, followed by the main points and elaboration. Indeed, this is because by fixating too much on specificities when reading the article for the first time, we run the risk of distracting ourselves from the full picture that the author tries to present. After comprehending the article’s purpose and structure as a whole, subsequent readings can be used to delve into specificities regarding for instance unfamiliar words or concepts that could not be understood upon the first reading.
Finally, especially pertaining to long and tedious texts, maximum understanding can be best attained when the text is split up into different parts. For long text, a common issue that I personally face is that despite having my mind fully engaged and interested for the first few pages, I inevitably become overwhelmed by all the knowledge in the subsequent few pages, to the point that I am unable to make space for new information. At this juncture, I unfortunately revert back to a passive manner of reading, which is in fact counterproductive since I do not truly understand what I have just read. Hence, in order to read for maximum understanding, and correspondingly apply the above methods of efficient reading, I do a certain number of pages of readings at a time, stopping when I feel like I am becoming unproductive while resuming some time after.
All in all, reading is essential for accessing knowledge about the world around us. Hence, the ability to read for maximum understanding is inarguably an important life skill, which can be honed through learning how to make notes when reading, to learning how to clarify unfamiliar information among peers, to understanding the purpose and structure of a text, and finally, how to split long texts into different phases.
If your child needs good preparation for English exams in the PSLE, O Level and A Level, check out the English regular classes and Masterclasses conducted by Cognitus Academy.