Posted by: W. E. Poplaski | June 16, 2008

Links to College Level Reading

If you are a high school senior, then read this!

You have worked hard throughout high school to improve your reading ability and now college lies in front of you. However, it doesn’t stop there; you must continually raise your reading ability throughout the four years of college.  It sometimes happens that students focus so much on completing their coursework that their reading ability slips in college. Remember, the best way to improve reading skills is by actually reading.

Here’s a sample of what will be expected of you in your senior year of college (the links are to sample questions for the GRE, MCAT and LSAT exams):

As you can see from the sample questions, your reading comprehension is expected to be much greater than it was when you took the SAT or ACT exams.  Moreover, it won’t improve spontaneously through taking college courses—you must actively work to improve your reading comprehension.  [Also, note that the MCAT exam (the entrance exam for medical school) is heavily weighted toward reading and only indirectly tests your math ability.]

You can start your preparation for college by reviewing the principle tenets of good reading technique (SQ3R—Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review). Lynchburg College has them listed here:

Improving your reading ability requires good strategy.  Many college courses overload students with reading material.  Unfortunately, some students fall behind and respond by spending hours at a time reading just to catch up.  It is much better to do focused reading for 40-minute periods, take a 5-minute break, and then read for another 40-minute period—than it is to read for one long block of time.  During your break, get up and walk around, step outside, and stretch.  The problem with reading nonstop for hours on end is in the difficulty to focus (i.e., your mind starts to wander) and then you are no longer actively reading.  Providence College has further tips on reading strategy:

If you are not satisfied with your current reading ability, start working now to improve it. Improving reading skills takes time—it can take up to two years of persistent work. Remember, the first thing to do is to increase the number of pages of material you read each and every day. Cuesta College has an in-depth packet of information designed to help you improve your reading skills:

Muskingum College, too, has an in-depth discussion of things to do to improve reading comprehension.  They also discuss strategy for doing well on the reading portions of standardized tests:

Finally, you should be aware that many college courses are reading intensive—that is, they overload the student with reading material.  You cannot hope to follow the same strategy you did in high school of reading everything thoroughly. You must learn how to skim and yet retain what is necessary to pass the course.  Professor Burke of Swarthmore College has some excellent advice for handling this situation. See his blog, Easily Distracted, but make sure you pay attention to the addendum at the end of his post. The advice he gives will help you transition from high school to college level reading:



The best way to improve your reading skills is by reading challenging material. The Weekly Read-Along, posted every Thurs/Fri on this blog, provides links to well-known and historical essays. Making a habit of reading those essays is a great way to increase the amount of reading you do.

Also, see “Three Steps to Improved Reading”—


  1. […] Also see Links to College Level Reading—  […]

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