college reading comprehension (2023)

Reading comprehension, in simple terms, is the ability to recognize, understand and retain a written text. It plays a vital role in academic performance and career success.research studiesconsistently show that students with strong reading comprehension skills outperform their peers in the classroom and beyond by wide margins.

In college, reading comprehension provides the foundation for academic study and learning, and your professors often assume the competence. Whether you're learning new terms for your anatomy and physiology class, studying assigned texts for an English course, or preparing for a big test, reading comprehension is the key to success. You'll also rely on these skills as you begin your healthcare career as you read and analyze patient charts, memos, and other important documents.

If you think your reading comprehension needs to be strengthened, we've got you covered. This guide discusses some common challenges, details concrete tips and strategies, and provides resources to improve and improve your reading comprehension before beginning your college career.

Common Barriers to College-Level Reading Comprehension

The reading tasks you will face in college differ significantly from the reading you are likely to do in your everyday life. Reading research journals and college textbooks, for example, involves more academic language and complex concepts than reading posts on social media, news sources, or your favorite novel.

College reading requires more focus, attention, and engagement for sustained periods of time than the reading most people do every day. But what does that mean in practice? And how can you prepare? Learn more about the challenges involved in reading at the college level and how to tackle them below.

What are some of the top challenges college students face with reading comprehension?

A wide variety of themes and changing writing styles

Switching between different styles, from technical medical terminology to abstract philosophical ideas, for example, is an acquired skill. College-level reading requires navigating these changes with ease and ease, and then applying what you read to your other courses. While adapting to various academic writing styles can be challenging, it's not impossible with the right initiative. Learning to cover a variety of topics and changing writing styles increases your chances of academic success.

(Video) Reading for Comprehension. Steps 1 & 2

reading heavy load

Reading a large volume of material at a faster pace means you have less time to process information before moving on to the next task. Developing a solid process and using effective time management skills will help you navigate the situation with less stress and anxiety. Planning ahead is essential, especially if intense reading isn't your forte yet.

lack of motivation

Reading about topics or topics that interest you is easy. In college, however, you will have to read and reflect on material that you may not find particularly interesting. Keeping focus on a subject outside of your areas of interest is difficult, especially when the reading is heavier and more complex. Consider reframing the situation as an opportunity to broaden your horizons and deepen your reading, analysis, and comprehension skills.

Age of publication and ancient vernacular language

At university, you are likely to come across dated texts and historical or even ancient documents. Fully understanding the intended meaning and meaning in these cases is difficult, and the content may take some time to parse. Reading older publications is an opportunity to learn from the past, and comparing these texts with more recently written often provides a new perspective and understanding of the material being studied. Take these opportunities in stride by looking for modern apps and connections, which your instructors are likely to steer you toward.

English as a second language

(Video) ACCUPLACER Reading Comprehension

Navigating reading comprehension in a language you're not familiar with is even more challenging. This additional complication requires not only more time, but also more brain power. If English isn't your first language, moving between different topics and spotting dramatic changes in tone or writing style can be especially difficult. ESL students need to set aside more time to work with texts and seek additional help.

Tips to improve reading comprehension

There are several strategies you can use to improve reading comprehension in college. This involves specific reading practices, but also includes preparing for reading and making sure you retain the information. Creating the right environment, considering how you interact with the text, and observing how you process information after reading it will help you improve your reading comprehension. Whatever your individual fight, know that you can improve by finding the right approach, usually made up of a combination of strategies and abilities. Below are some of the most effective habit-building strategies that can help you improve your reading comprehension.

Find the right environment

Multitasking doesn't work well in general, but especially when it comes to deep reading, the kind you're likely to find in college courses. Eliminating distractions starts with finding the right settings. Consider the type of environment that supports your learning, and complete your reading-related assignments as often as possible. Finding the right environment not only eliminates distractions, but also creates a more comfortable home environment for reading and learning.

text summary

Understanding key points and their meaning is much easier if you do a quick overview of a text before diving into the deep reading. Skimming a text before studying its content in detail gives a sense of structure and tells you what to expect in terms of content. Paying attention to these elements early on helps focus your detailed reading later, because you already know what to expect and are essentially completing an outline you created during preview. You'll also likely save time and effort in the long run by increasing your familiarity with the text and reducing the additional time you spend searching for information.

Divide the reading into sections.


Some texts are organized into individual sections or subsections by author. These headings can help guide your reading in a more focused way. If a text doesn't have them, consider doing this job yourself. As you review the text, identify any natural breaks or transitions and create individual sections of your own, just as if you were making an outline. Then, tackle each section one at a time. Dividing the reading into sections makes the task more manageable and easy to digest.

highlight important information

Highlighting helps you keep track of content and provides an easy way to find the main points when you come back to study it later. The key is to identify the most important information. If you highlight too much, nothing stands out. Focus on key terms, data, or definitions, and consider isolating a key phrase or two for each paragraph. Highlighting main ideas, keywords, and phrases helps you work smarter, not harder.

interact with text

Taking notes while reading texts not only improves comprehension and retention, but also provides a helpful cheat sheet when studying for tests and other assignments. It is especially helpful to jot down key terms or definitions and document any thoughtful questions that arise from your reading. If you come across a word you don't quite understand, look it up and write down the definition. This increases your vocabulary and gives you a better understanding of what you read.

Reread the confusing sections

Especially confusing material requires additional time and effort to fully understand, which may require multiple readings. As you read, keep track of sections that initially don't make sense and mark them for follow-up. Come back to those difficult parts later, reread them, look up confusing words, and maybe even read the sections aloud to help you take your time with them. Rereading confusing sections until you understand them better will help you expand your understanding and deepen your reading comprehension.

(Video) Reading comprehension skills | Reading comprehension strategies | Free English lessons online

Review, summarize and discuss

After reading all of the text, pause before reviewing your notes and highlights. As you review, summarize key points and paraphrase key ideas to encourage deeper understanding and lasting retention. Discussing the content and your notes can also help. Study groups are especially useful for consolidating the information you gain from reading.


The more you read, especially when reading challenging texts, the more you go deeper and improve your reading comprehension skills. Work on your comprehension skills,read a lot and oftento improve their ability to retain information. Practicing deep reading before entering college puts you in a better position to not only thrive in school, but also to succeed professionally afterward.

ask for help

Most colleges and universities have student centers focused on academic success. Check out these resources for help with reading comprehension. Schools often provide information about these centers through their main student services center, and some even offer virtual resources in addition to on-campus help. If you think you have a problem like ADHD or a learning disability that is preventing you from improving your reading comprehension, talk to a doctor. Check out these resource guides for students withADHDoLearning difficulties.

Techniques and Specific Skills

You can further improve your proficiency by going beyond the more general approaches discussed above and adopting specific reading comprehension techniques and skills. Learning the best practices for summarizing and paraphrasing, along with discovering skills like verbatim notation and speed reading, can significantly increase your reading ability. Some of the most popular and effective strategies for developing specific reading comprehension skills and techniques are discussed below. Adding one or more of these to an already strong skill set, such as those detailed above, can increase your reading efficiency and help you tackle your college-level reading more efficiently.

(Video) 4 Steps to Read Difficult Texts Faster (Academic Speed Reading Comprehension)

  • SQ4R method for reading textbooksInitially developed byeducational psychologistsIn the 1940s, SQ4R is still a popular and effective reading comprehension strategy. The name is an acronym that stands for each step: research, question, read, reflect, recite, and review. Start by giving the text a quick but comprehensive overview.survey, recording each keyaskwhile you glide then activelyfurtherthe text, pausing when necessary toreflectabout the information Finally yourecitekey points immediately after reading andanalysisregularly to ensure long-lasting retention.
  • writing down textTextual annotation (also known as marginalia) involves making notes or comments on readings that highlight important definitions, key points and proofs, and other significant features.Studies showthat actively annotating text while reading improves memory and improves overall comprehension. Annotate text by hand with pen and paper or use any number of tools available toannotate electronic filesand digital content.
  • Fast readingSpeed ​​reading helps you digest material faster and more efficiently—a great approach if you need to work through a lot of content in a short amount of time. Effective speed reading does not include understanding or retaining information; it emphasizes productivity and puts you in a good position to make the most of your time while reading. Popular strategies include scanning and previewing text ahead of time, reading large blocks of text instead of concentrating on individual words, and using a finger to quickly guide your eyes around the page.
  • Strategies for Summarizing and ParaphrasingSummarizing and paraphrasing texts aids comprehension and helps you remember important information. Summarizing allows you to skip the details so you can focus on the key points and the most important information. Paraphrasing works in a similar way, except that you translate the text into your own words. These tried-and-true strategies take longer than speed reading, but improve information retention while improving your note-taking skills.
  • Rephrase to simplify textA powerful and intuitive tool, Rewordify helps you understand difficult sentences that use complex or unfamiliar language. Simply type or paste a phrase or passage into the text box and receive instant feedback designed to enhance understanding. This free platform regularly adds new features and is especially useful for non-native English speakers looking to improve fluency, learn synonyms, and build vocabulary.

More tools and resources

Want to dig a little deeper into some of the reading strategies and techniques discussed in this guide? Below are additional tools to help you improve your comprehension skills and deepen your overall reading experience. These tools and resources include how-to guides and videos, tips for reading medical texts, information on speed reading and efficient time management, and diagrams that visual learners will find helpful. You'll also discover ways to improve information retention, find specific reading tips for healthcare students, and learn how to build your vocabulary, create a caring mindset, and improve your memory. Some features even include games to help you improve your reading comprehension skills.

  • Reading skills from an Ivy League schoolCreated by experts at Dartmouth College, this resource includes a 10-minute video on improving reading and effective note-taking practices. It also details several tried-and-true reading comprehension techniques, such as the SQ3R method, varying reading speed, and other literacy support strategies. Students looking to build their vocabulary will find the list of keywords or flags especially useful.
  • Cuesta College Study Guide for Reading ComprehensionDrawing on academic research on adult literacy in the United States, this guide is packed with resources, tips, and advice on how to improve your reading and information retention skills. It includes a valuable list of best practices, including breaking text into small, digestible chunks, and discusses how to approach reading and studying with a mindset that enables comprehension.
  • Tips for Medical School Reading ComprehensionThis page covers some of the same ground as the last two resources, but approaches the information from the perspective of a medical student. It focuses on how to prepare for reading, what to do while reading, and how to make sure you retain and fully understand the material after you've finished reading. Additional features include collation (learn about different topics at the same time) and tips to improve your memory.
  • iris reading centerBecause grief and the experience of loss are personal, it is impossible for us to put ourselves in the shoes of a grieving person. We can't fully understand the weight of their experience, so it's important to be patient and try to interact with them on their own terms. While it helps to be a good listener and show up to offer help with work or school-related assignments, it will also be supportive if you remain calm, collected, and patient with them.
  • Princeton Active Reading StrategiesThe McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton has compiled a list of reading comprehension strategies that focus on how to approach text analytically. For visual learners, it also includes diagrams that demonstrate how to map readings and how to recognize textual features and other important structural features.


How to study for college if you struggle with reading comprehension? ›

10 Strategies to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for College
  1. Find Your Reading Corner. ...
  2. Preview the Text. ...
  3. Use Smart Starting Strategies. ...
  4. Highlight or Annotate the Text. ...
  5. Take Notes on Main Points. ...
  6. Write Questions as You Read. ...
  7. Look Up Words You Don't Know. ...
  8. Make Connections.
Aug 25, 2020

Why is my reading comprehension so weak? ›

Some major causes of poor reading comprehension include ADHD, dyslexia, difficult text, limited vocabulary, working memory deficit, and more. You may also have trouble comprehending what you're reading if you are disinterested or bored.

How do you pass a reading comprehension test? ›

The following are seven simple strategies you can use to work on your comprehension skills:
  1. Improve your vocabulary. ...
  2. Come up with questions about the text you are reading. ...
  3. Use context clues. ...
  4. Look for the main idea. ...
  5. Write a summary of what you read. ...
  6. Break up the reading into smaller sections. ...
  7. Pace yourself.
Mar 10, 2023

Is poor reading comprehension a learning disability? ›

Like other learning differences, reading comprehension problems are often a hidden disability. Parents, teachers, and peers may be unaware that someone is struggling with this issue, especially when their reading proficiency seems fine otherwise.

How to do college readings with ADHD? ›

Children, students, and adults with ADHD may improve their reading skills with the following tips.
  1. Take breaks. Beat time management and focus challenges by taking breaks during reading sessions. ...
  2. Consider active reading. ...
  3. Reduce distractions. ...
  4. Communicate about challenges. ...
  5. Get creative.
Sep 2, 2021

What are two things you should not do when answering reading comprehension questions? ›

Common Mistakes in Answering Reading Comprehension Questions
  • Using Too Much Prior Knowledge. ...
  • Right Answer, Wrong Question. ...
  • Conflating Authors with Characters.

What are the 5 questions for reading comprehension? ›

But too often, I find myself relying solely on the 5 W's of comprehension questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

What is the most popular strategy for solving reading comprehension RC? ›

Reading passage first and then questions is the most popular strategy for RC.

Is poor reading comprehension dyslexia? ›

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that affects reading. Children with dyslexia often have poor phonological skills, resulting in difficulties with decoding, reading fluency, and spelling. Dyslexia can also impact reading comprehension and writing.

Do kids with ADHD have trouble reading? ›

ADHD can make it harder to learn how to read, and it can also make it harder to acquire new information through reading. Here are some of the typical ways that ADHD symptoms interfere with reading: Poor focus or difficulty with sustained attention.

Are college students reading less? ›

After students get to college, a survey from China Daily shows that reading time shrinks down to about half an hour a day or less. According to the survey, nearly 60 percent of the college students that were spoken to said they were dissatisfied with their reading habits.

How do you get 100 on reading comprehension? ›

How to Pass a Reading Comprehension Test
  1. Focus on the Questions. It may seem counterintuitive, but you should be reading the questions before the passages they relate to during reading comprehension tests. ...
  2. Use the Passage. ...
  3. Work with the Answers. ...
  4. Learning and Practicing Reading Comprehension Strategies.

How do I know if I have poor reading comprehension? ›

Signs of comprehension difficulty: confusion about the meaning of words and sentences. inability to connect ideas in a passage. omission of, or glossing over detail.

What does ADHD look like when reading? ›

Reading Issues in Children With ADHD

Inattention: Kids who have difficulty focusing often struggle to sustain attention while reading. 1 They might get distracted, skip text, miss important details, and struggle to stay on task. Such challenges may be more pronounced when kids are bored or tired.

What are five warning signs that a student may have a reading disability? ›

What are the symptoms of reading disorders?
  • Problems sounding out words.
  • Difficulty recognizing sounds and the letters that make up those sounds.
  • Poor spelling.
  • Slow reading.
  • Problems reading out loud with correct expression.
  • Problems understanding what was just read.
Mar 5, 2020

How does ADHD affect reading skills? ›

2 Many students with ADHD can fall behind while reading, missing phrases in the text, skipping over words or sentences, losing track of where they are on the page, missing details and connections. This is especially evident when passages are long and complex.

What does ADHD look like in college students? ›

College students with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) can exhibit less confidence in their academic ability, often receive lower grades than peers and tend to be more concerned about social relationships according to an article published in PubMed Central.

How do people with ADHD struggle in college? ›

Difficulty regulating and managing emotions: Students who have ADHD also often struggle with social problems, negative thoughts, and poor self-esteem. 2 Disruptive symptoms may make friendships and other relationships more challenging. Worrying about these problems can also play a role in poor self-image.

Can I tell my professor I have ADHD? ›

Taking the initiative to talk with your professors helps them put a face to your name. It also shows them that you're taking an active role in your education. Disclosing to your professors will help them to support you both in and out of class .

What are the two major causes of poor comprehension? ›

Comprehension problems result from medical reasons such as dyslexia and ADHD. Poor grasp also happens when you are anxious or when the text you are reading is complex and unfamiliar. Other reasons are difficulties recognizing and decoding words, limited vocabulary, and low interest or motivation.

What are the 4 C's for reading comprehension? ›

The 4 Cs represent these four perspectives—connections, challenges, concepts, and changes. The paraphrasing encourages and affirms good listening and summarizing skills.

What are the 3 big questions in reading? ›

The Three Big Questions strategy challenges readers to annotate in the margins by marking passages that answer the questions: "What surprised me?", "What did the author think I already knew?", and "What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I already knew?".

What are the 7 reading comprehension strategies? ›

To improve students' reading comprehension, teachers should introduce the seven cognitive strategies of effective readers: activating, inferring, monitoring-clarifying, questioning, searching-selecting, summarizing, and visualizing-organizing.

What is the 321 strategy in reading comprehension? ›

A 3-2-1 prompt helps students structure their responses to a text, film, or lesson by asking them to describe three takeaways, two questions, and one thing they enjoyed. It provides an easy way for teachers to check for understanding and to gauge students' interest in a topic.

Which strategy would most likely improve a student's reading comprehension? ›

Which strategy would most likely improve a student's reading comprehension? Leveled questioning is critical for building reading comprehension skills. As students learn to find information within a text, interpret that information, and evaluate it, they will come to a deep understanding of the author's message.

What is the best way to increase reading speed and comprehension? ›

Try focusing on headings, first sentences of paragraphs, bold words, dialogue, etc. Or try reading words diagonally, up and down the page. With practice, you will learn to make educated guesses at the ideas or information on the page by sampling some of the text and then elaborating with knowledge from your head.

What does it mean if you struggle with reading comprehension? ›

Comprehension Difficulties

Comprehension relies on mastery of decoding; children who struggle to decode find it difficult to understand and remember what has been read. Because their efforts to grasp individual words are so exhausting, they have no resources left for understanding.

How can I improve my reading comprehension disability? ›

There are five strategies that have been proven to improve reading comprehension with these special needs students. The strategies include the following: explicit instruction, prior knowledge, theme identification, graphic organizers, and literature circles.

Is it possible to improve reading comprehension? ›

Because reading comprehension is a skill that improves like any other, you can improve your understanding with practice and a game plan. Dedicate yourself to engaging in a combination of both "guided" and "relaxed" reading practice for at least two to three hours a week.


1. College Reading Strategies
(The Learning Center at the University of Hawaii Maui College)
2. College Placement Test Reading Study Guide Sample - Reading Comprehension Questions and Answers
(Exam SAM)
3. To Improve Comprehension DON'T Try to Understand
(Steve Kaufmann - lingosteve)
4. Reading Comprehension: Teaching Strategies
(Teachings in Education)
5. Reading Comprehension Strategies For College Students
6. College Reading Comprehension Tip #1-First Sentences


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