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Study Skills to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Our Study Skills Course teaches evidence-based strategies students need to know to study more effectively. There are several strategies that experts have linked to academic success along with key characteristics of highly effective students. In our last Study Skills Blog, we discussed the difference between studying for short-term and long-term use. In this blog series, we will go over one of the most effective study habits all students should integrate into their study routine. 

High school students do a lot of studying during their academic career, most of which is reading assigned material. Students must be able to learn from the reading and readily apply their knowledge to display mastery. Therefore, reading effectively is critical to high school students’ academic success. So what do effective students do while they read? 

Browsing: Overview Your Reading Material

Before reading an assigned text, students should look at the title, photos, and anything that stands out during. This browsing period allows students to connect to the text before reading it. Students should take the time to preview the text in order to think about what they already know about the topic. By doing this, students are able to activate prior knowledge, making early connections to what they already know and what they will be learning about the topic. Brain research shows that the human brain organizes learning into categories of information in order to retain and make sense of knowledge. Students who take the time to do this preview are allowing the brain to make those connections and add new information to the category. 

In addition, during this browsing period, students should think about what they do NOT know about the topic, what they wonder about the topic or want to learn about it. During reading, students are then able to consciously fill in the gaps of knowledge about the topic at hand. 

Most educators who teach reading do this browsing activity with their students before reading text in order to directly instruct students on how to do it correctly. The educator hopes that the student will use the techniques during independent reading. The more one practices the techniques, the more likely they are to use them. However, many educational settings do not allow time for students to practice these techniques on their own. Teachers often do all the thinking aloud for the students, making students dependent on them and passive learners. Everything we know about learning indicates that students learn best when actively participating and engaging in learning. Therefore, many students reach high school without having sufficient mastery over the skill of browsing text. 

At the high school and college level, it may help the student to know that research indicates this study habit is an effective tool for learning and understanding new content. Knowing this, the student may actively involve themselves in this habit. 

Ten Steps to Master Pre-Reading

If you are a student who would like to master this skill, it will help you to browse through your assigned text and write down the outlined details below. 

Print the “10 Steps Before Reading Text” image to use as a bookmark.

Follow these steps for practice.

  1. Read and Think About the Title.
  2. Turn the Pages. Read and Think about Boldface Headings.
  3. Highlight or Underline the First Sentence under each heading. This is usually the topic sentence, which provides the main idea of the paragraph or section.
  4. Look at all the Pictures, Graphs, and Charts. Read their Captions.
  5. Write down what you learned from the first 4 steps.
  6. Now write down what you already know about the topic.
  7. Write down what you want to learn about this topic, or any questions you have about the topic.
  8. Make note of any unknown words or confusing concepts you saw during the preview. (You will look these up during the reading. We will go through this process on our next blog.)
  9. Set a purpose for your reading, depending on the clues you got from previewing and also from your instructor’s assignment.
  10. You may want to organize your above steps using a graphic organizer or an outline. Decide how best to organize your information.

Stay tuned for our next blog where we will outline the next step in this effective and important study skill. In the meantime, practice the above 10 steps with all of your assigned reading.