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Before starting your reading assignment, look at the title and ask yourself what you already know about that subject. Reinforce new ideas by connecting them to ones already in your memory.

  • Provides a focus for new ideas and information
  • Promotes concentration and comprehension
  • Allows you to see new information in the light of what you already know

Read actively.

  • Use a study system, such as SQ3R
  • Highlight, underline, or annotate after reading each section
  • Write questions and/or comments in the margin
  • Read to understand, not just memorize the information
  • Take notes
  • If light is bothersome, use colored overlays to improve contrast and reduce fatigue

At the end of each section, take a moment to pause and reflect on what you’ve just read. Look for the main idea and convert it into a keyword or question.

Reflection is the key to strengthening memory because you are thinking about what you’ve read. Intending to remember information, and attempting to recall it without looking, may be the single most useful method of programming your memory.

  • Promotes concentration, comprehension, and recall
  • Provides practice for test taking

There is a limit to how much we can remember at one time—most people can hold 7 items in short-term memory. It’s important to control both the number and form of your memories. Also, your memory needs time to consolidate new information.

  • Study in short (50 minute) blocks with rest breaks (10 minutes) in between
  • Organize chunks of information in a meaningful way
  • Pause periodically to think about what you have just read
  • Avoid cramming

If you prefer to postpone close reading until after class, particularly in lecture-based courses, you should do a good survey of the material before hearing the lecture.

  • Read the title and ask yourself what you already know about the subject
  • Read the introduction or objectives
  • Look carefully at all charts, diagrams, and pictures, and read the captions
  • Pay attention to headings and bold-faced words
  • Read the summary for a reiteration of the main ideas presented in the chapter
  • After class, read closely with your lecture notes at hand to help guide your reading

Adapted from Walter Pauk’s How to Study in College, 7th Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.