Efficient Reading Tips for Tertiary Students

Efficient Reading Tips for Tertiary Students


As a tertiary student, you are no doubt juggling study commitments around work and personal life, and finding that you’re time squeezed every day. When you add in the reading that you need to do to stay on top of your courses, it can feel very daunting. But there are ways to read more effectively without spending more time doing it. Follow our tips and you’ll be able to read efficiently and absorb more information, making you better prepared in the lead up to exams.

1. Read strategically

Before you open the textbook, think about why you’re reading the material.  Are you looking for a particular fact or analysis within the book, or will you be expected to understand a lengthy chapter and distil it for discussion? Instead of reading straight through like a novel, browse each heading and sub-heading first and go straight to the relevant ones. You’ll soon find out whether you need to read around the relevant extract for context.

2. Analyse your sources

Before you begin, take a few moments to analyse the sources you have. Are they peer-reviewed?  Is the author presenting both sides? Are assertions backed up with reference to other checkable sources? Be aware that very little material is free of all bias. Although opinion pieces and articles which summarise the work of others can be useful as additions, the material that you use in order to make your own arguments should be the work written by experts in the field and backed up with primary sources. This exercise will help you prioritise your readings and assign your time accordingly.

3. Read the start and the end first

If you’re reading an article or self-contained chapter which contains an argument, read the introduction and the conclusion first. The introduction will tell you what the piece is about and should indicate what argument the author is making. The conclusion will expand on that argument and wrap it up. Once you have those in mind, go back and read the article through – you can do this fairly swiftly, because you are ‘filling in the gaps’ and you understand the context of the material being presented.

4. Take notes

As you read, jot down notes that summarise the salient points, and any thoughts you might have about how the material relates to other knowledge in your course. If you’re more comfortable working completely online, there are a number of great note-taking applications out there , or simply use a blank word document. That said, know that research indicates students who use handwritten notes are more likely to retain the information they’re recording.

What do you think?

Once you’re practiced at reading critically and efficiently, you’ll find that even the heaviest reading load can become less of a chore. What tricks do you use to help get through your readings? Comment to share your tips!

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Scientific American, Mind Tools and Miriam E Sweeney.

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