Study Better by Reading for Specific Purposes

Not all reading is alike. It's important to adjust your reading for its specific purposes. If you are looking for certain information, you can skim quickly until you find it. If you need to analyze an author's style or take a position on a controversial issue, you will need to read critically. You'll want to concentrate and pay close attention to the implications of what you read.

Adjust your reading speed and focus
according to your reason for reading

  • Are you looking for specific information? Know exactly what you’re looking for. Scan the table of contents, index, and subheadings for the chapters or sections that can give it to you. Then skim those sections until you find it. Pay special attention to the headings and first paragraphs, which can alert you to the main points in each section.
  • Are you trying to understand a subject or an author? Do you need to write an essay or to form your own opinions for a discussion, debate, or essay? Read critically, considering the author’s point of view and possible biases. Is he or she an authority on the subject? What is the source of the information? Does the author give evidence to back up his or her claims? Is there missing or distorted information? Notice the author’s emphasis, choice of words, and imagery.
woman reading
  • Are you studying to prepare for a test? Quickly review the content you are expected to know. You can skip or skim material you are familiar with. Concentrate on the areas you don’t understand as well. Read those carefully, stopping frequently to review and summarize the new information.
  • Are you taking a reading test? Read each question carefully, two times. (It helps many people to read the questions through once even before reading the selection they refer to.) Focus on finding the best answer to that question in the selection. Eliminate any “answers” that don’t really address or apply to it. 
  • Are you reading for pleasure, personal interest, and English fluency? Choose a text that isn’t too difficult, so you won’t have to struggle to understand. Then relax and enjoy it! Don’t interrupt the flow to look up words unless they are essential to understanding. You will learn new words even without looking them up if you read them several times. (This happens often when you read several stories or articles with the same theme.)

Now that you can see the value of adjusting your reading for specific purposes, see Improve Reading Skills to learn more about skimming and scanning, using context clues, and making inferences.

You can practice your reading skills at Check your Reading Skill and Reading Strategies and Comprehension Practice.

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