The Importance of Reading Comprehension

Nicole is currently a doctoral candidate in Measurement & Evaluation at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University. Nicole also holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from New York University.

Reading comprehension is an important skill that even the most highly intelligent people can slip up on from time to time. Starting out your college career by paying attention to and continually developing this skill is vital to your success both academically and professionally. All students should keep in mind a few tips or tricks that can help them to improve their reading comprehension skills.
First of all, never assume that you only need to read something once in order to understand it. I have made that mistake a couple of times during the first year of my undergraduate studies and suffered the consequences. Fortunately, the consequences were just misunderstanding a homework assignment or two and after, I realized that I needed to really focus on what I’m reading and not gloss over it just because it should be simple. Keep in mind that even if the subject matter seems really basic, read it over at least three times to ensure you are cognitively absorbing the information accurately.
Second, discuss what you have read with another person. Now this seems incredibly obvious, however, two people can and will interpret the same material differently. What is Important to keep in mind is how you interpret something is different from how someone else interprets it. In addition, the subject matter can lend itself to multiple interpretations or one main interpretation. For example, if the subject matter at hand is an excerpt from a book you are reading for a Philosophy or English class then you will certainly have different interpretations and should verbally explore those to help you learn the concepts. If the subject you are reading about is math-based then there is a good possibility that there is one primary interpretation. To save yourself spending hours incorrectly completing an assignment and your grade, when you are unsure or even slightly unsure if you comprehend the task correctly discuss it with a friend or classmate.
Third, keep in mind that the cognitive state you are in while reading something can affect your ability to understand it. Reading a scholarly article an hour before class when you have to discuss it in class is more than likely not the most productive way to understand what you have read. In addition, if you are not a morning person reading over something first thing in the morning may be counterproductive. However, if you are a morning person then by all means utilize that time of day to get your reading in.
And finally, practice, practice, practice! Time and again I have seen in my professional life as well as in my academic life that many people have weak reading comprehension skills. From incorrectly comprehending what a job ad says to incorrectly reading a statistics problem, college graduates can misunderstand what they are reading. It seems like a basic-how-can-people-possibly-mess-this-up kind of skill; a skill that we all should have been taught in elementary school, then again in middle school and yet again in high school. However, many adults go through life never quite honing this skill. Do not let that happen to you! Continually work on your reading comprehension as it is a skill that could always use improvement.

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