Having issues retaining vocabulary? Feeling exhausted from reading long passages? Do facts and snippets of the passage seem to fade away right after you finish reading said passages? We can help! By changing how you read, what you read, and how you process and think about what you're reading, you'll change your reading from passive reading to active reading. The process of active reading forces you to think critically and to make your brain engage with and retain information as you read. There's a few reasons why it works:
- You'll practice with high-quality sources that get you used to the kind of reading you'll see on test days
- You'll get better at analyzing sentence structure
- You'll retain vocabulary because you'll be reading vocabulary in context
So, how does one switch from passive to active reading? The answer is simple: you need to read like your life depends on it. Active reading requires that you read with purpose, and ask yourself questions along the way. Here's some of the questions you should be asking (and keep in mind, your answers to these questions may change as you move through the passage!):
- What's the main idea? For anything you read, you need to be able to describe the main idea or purpose of the passage in a few phrases (not just a long sentence). Imagine an upside-down pyramid; you want to move from a broad description down to the narrowest level.
- What is the structure and flow of the passage? You need to pay attention to transition words in the passage. You need to think about where you have been and where you are going in the passage. How does this paragraph connect to the main idea? What's its purpose in terms of the main idea? And how was it connected to the previous paragraph? Through these questions, you will get a "road map" of the passage. You'll have a sense of what happens where. And you will have a better understanding of examples or reasons because you will know their purpose in terms of the main idea of the passage.
- What is the author's tone and what is the author's purpose? You always want to try and infer the author's opinion about the topic. The author's opinions and beliefs will leak into the passage and influence the word choice and position in the article. So pay attention to the positive or negative tone of the adjectives and adverbs in the passage. In terms of the author's purpose, we don't have to do too much work. There are really only four reasons that people write something: to entertain, to persuade, to inform, or to describe. Obviously, passages will have elements of all of these, but usually there is one main reason that author sat down to write what you are reading.
The most important part of active reading is to make sure that you're using high-quality writing to practice your newfound activated reading skills on! We recommend that you read from the following sources:
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