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Overcoming reading problems

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The list below outlines some common reading problems.

  • I can't maintain concentration
  • I can't get motivated
  • The textbook is too difficult
  • I'm not happy with my reading comprehension or speed of reading
  • My vocabulary is limited
  • My eyes keep wandering back over the page

Maintaining concentration

Make sure your desk is away from distractions and that your study area is well lit, not too hot and not too cold.

Create a graphic outline or mind-map of particularly difficult texts using their headings and sub-headings so you can see where the reading is going.

Getting Motivated

Divide your work into manageable chunks.

Make sure you have your purposes for reading clear in your mind.

Give yourself a small reward when you finish.

Difficult Texts

Go back to a simpler text to begin with, or read other texts on the same topic.

Go to a dictionary only when you really need to. Instead of looking up a new word, try to guess its meaning by how it fits into the sentence. Unfamiliar words can often be gradually understood from context.

Use skimming and scanning techniques as outlined in the Reading Strategies tutorial.

Cross-reference the readings with your lecture notes.

Form a study-group with your classmates and help each other.

Reading Speed and Comprehension

Read in chunks - avoid the temptation to read every word.

Try to consciously increase reading speed when reading newspaper articles or other non-academic texts.

Ask yourself questions about what you've just read after you've finished to test and improve your understanding.


Focus on the structure of words and make your own glossary of unfamiliar and technical terms.

Carry around a notebook for writing down new words that hear each day.

Read as widely as you can. Watch movies with the subtitles turned on.

Use a thesaurus or buy a subject dictionary.

Start doing crosswords or playing other word games.

Reading material

If the reading material is particularly difficult, returning to earlier material is sometimes not a bad idea.

Tell yourself you will finish this chapter by a certain (realistic) time.

Otherwise, try to force yourself to keep moving. You can try reciting the main ideas at the end of the chapter if you want to check understanding.

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