Like any college student, you probably have more to read than you could ever finish even if you stayed up for all 24 hours of a day. Here are some facts about reading.
How Your Brain Processes Reading Material
Frank Smith, author of Understanding Reading, says that your mind works like a bottle: you have a short-term memory that, like the neck of a bottle, can only handle so much being poured into it at a time. Your short-term memory can handle 5 plus or minus 2 chunks of information at a time. The average persons attention span is about an hour and a half (90 minutes); after 90 minutes, most of us need a good break of about 15 minutes.
Now you know why most people dont remember much if they cram for a test: they may pass the test, but 6 weeks later, ask them if they remember anything, and they wont. Long-lasting memory is only had through putting information into the brain in time-limited intervals without too much information.
Managing Those Chunks
If the short-term memory can only hold 5 plus or minus 2 chunks of information at a time, then we have to maximize those chunks. Here are some suggestions:
- read with your hands: preview the text by flipping through the number of pages youre assigned and as you see boldfaced sections, make those into chunks for yourself
- if there is too much to read in 90 minutes, concentrate on getting what you can from those chunks in 90 minutes without finishingyou will actually know more than someone who read the whole thing
- some people read through and draw pictures of important pieces of information; the sillier the picture, the more youll remember
- be sure to take a break after 90 minutesa good one where you walk around, clear out your mind, or find something fun to distract you
- isolate what you goal is for reading: are you reading for a quiz, a test, or to write a paper? the goal should shape how you read
The Worst Thing to Do is to Read Slowly from Page 1
If you read everything LIKE it is a novel, youll never be done and youll use up your short-term memory quickly!! Set a time limit, keep to it, break your reading into chunks, and go right to whats important to you. Only take notes if you know youll reread them.
Be Comfortable and Happy When You Read
Make your reading area as inviting as possible!! Get a fan, good lighting, all the pens you need, your favorite desk or photoswhatever makes you feel comfortable working therespoil yourself. Mother Teresa once said that unless your personal life was in order, you wouldnt have any tranquility. Write your grandmother, call who you need to call, but make sure that comes first, or you wont be able to concentrate.