Student Tips: 10 Ways to Become a Successful Reader


Anyone who has taken a college course online already knows that a lot of your learning occurs through reading. Whether engaged with a lesson, or a book, or a discussion post or a website, chances are that you are reading text.

The good news is that you started reading at an early age and are comfortable with this approach. But you may not be accustomed to reading scholarly textbooks or journals. If you ask, “What did I just read?” and find your answer is, “I don’t recall!” you will benefit from these tips on how to become a successful reader.

  1. Print it out. If you find you have difficulty reading on screen, or you are uncomfortable sitting in front of your computer for long stretches of time, consider printing out your assignment. This method gives you many more options for when and how you read. Look for “print-friendly” or “PDF” versions that are meant to look good on paper. But be aware that printing costs can add up.
  2. Scan quickly. Scan the entire selection to get a quick overview of your assignment. Read titles, subtitles, and anything in bold font. Read the introductory comments and concluding text or summary. You have just gathered a lot of information in a short amount of time!
  3. Get visual. Look at pictures, figures, charts or graphs to get a better grasp on the message. Visual images may be easier for you to remember than words.
  4. Find a purpose. If you notice a heading that says “Online Learning Success Strategies,” ask yourself, “What strategies could make me successful? Why should I learn this?” It is easier to stick to the task of reading when it has meaning for you. As you read the material, search for links between what you have read and how it relates to you own situation.
  5. Quiz yourself. Take a section that you have read and make up some questions about the reading. Later, ask yourself these questions to determine if you remember the answers.
  6. Take notes. Take notes as you read to help you encode important facts to remember. Notes give you an outline to follow when studying for exams. If you are reading an electronic book or file such as a PDF, look for features that let you highlight text and make comments. Or, print the source and take notes on paper.
  7. Say it aloud. Reciting the most important details of what you have read helps you to remember them. Repeat information aloud to yourself to store it into your long-term memory.
  8. Share. Tell someone else about what you have read. The act of explaining makes it more “real” for you and easier to remember.
  9. Review. If the reading has a summary, decide if it matches your impression of what you have read. If not, go back and re-read the source to deepen your understanding.
  10. Reflect. What you read stays with you much longer, and becomes more meaningful, if you reflect on what you have just read. Put in your own words what you now know, think, or feel as the result of reading.

Choose two or three tips to start and evaluate their effectiveness. Add new tips over time to become an expert reader.

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