Skimming to survive

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Student Brock Bennion tries to decide which book to read next at the HBLL. As midterms and finals hit, new reading techniques like reading chapter summaries or asking relevant questions will help students succeed. (Chris Bunker)
Student Brock Bennion tries to decide which book to read next at the HBLL. As midterms and finals hit, new reading techniques like reading chapter summaries or asking relevant questions will help students succeed. (Chris Bunker)

Skimming quickly becomes the only option when it’s almost midnight and there are 50 pages of reading left.

Steven Neeley, a student from Beaver, Pennsylvania, studying exercise science, said he reads the beginnings and endings of sections but skims the middle portions of the chapter. “I check the glossary and summary pages for dates, figures, people or practice problems, depending on the subject,” Neeley said.

Professors’ hopes for students to complete hundreds of pages of reading tend to outweigh what students actually complete. Tactics and technologies exist to help students read faster and more efficiently. The following are four methods to improve reading skills:

1. SQ4R

According to BYU’s Career and Academic Success Center, the SQ4R technique is helpful for strategic reading.

S and Q stand for survey and question, and the four R’s stand for read, recite, reflect and review. Survey means to examine the text before reading it, focusing on bold words and titles. Readers should then ask questions about what the text should answer. This builds a curiosity that aims to motivate readers to find answers to their own questions.

The next step is to read and then to recite what has just been read. This will help the reader “mentally download” the information.

Next, reflect on the information. According to the Career and Academic Success Center, “Pinpoint lingering questions and confusions, connect to what you already know, generate new thinking inspired by the text, demand understanding of yourself from the author and integrate and think how to apply.”

The last step is to review. Reviewing the reading will help store the information for long-term use.

For more detailed help on reading techniques, visit the Career and Academic Success Center in Room 2590 of the Wilkinson Student Center.

2. The gummy bear trick

Some students practice the Gummy Bear method while reading, where they will place one gummy bear on each paragraph and reward themselves after reaching a certain point in the reading. Other students prefer to speed skim through pages, especially when assigned large amounts of reading each night.
Some students practice the Gummy Bear method while reading, where they will place one gummy bear on each paragraph and reward themselves after reaching a certain point in the reading. Other students prefer to speed skim through pages, especially when assigned large amounts of reading each night.

Place gummy bears periodically throughout the assigned pages. The gummy bears are only to be eaten when the reader has finished the text covered by the candy.

For students who love other sweet treats, the candy does not have to be gummy bears. Any candy that will motivate the student to read all of the assigned pages may be used (except chocolate, which might melt).

3. Spritz

Spritz makes reading easier because each word is streamed one at a time, eliminating the time it takes to move from word to word across the page.

The reader can control the speed of the text on Spritz. Seven hundred words per minute is the highest speed and challenges readers to give their undivided attention to the blur of words speeding by. Readability levels are still successful at such high speeds. Click here to visit Spritz’s website and try it out.

Spritz allows online readers to speed through words one at a time as they fly through the device.
Spritz allows online readers to speed through words one at a time as they fly through the device.

4. SparkNotes

According to the SparkNotes website, “Sometimes you don’t understand your teacher, your textbooks make no sense, and you have to read 16 chapters by tomorrow. SparkNotes is a resource you can turn to when you’re confuzzled.”

Sparknotes is not meant to replace reading but helps students better understand the material. Many college students resort to SparkNotes when time is short and class is approaching.

Kelsey Metcalf, a 22-year-old junior majoring in family studies, only uses SparkNotes when she’s having trouble with complicated reading. “I try not to use SparkNotes unless I’ve done all the reading I can and still haven’t gotten a deeper understanding of the reading,” Metcalf said. “It’s been such a good resource when I’m desperate and not comprehending the reading like I need to.”

Midterms means more studying, and more studying most often means more reading. Finding a personalized method will eliminate confusion as page numbers pile up.

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