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Critical Reading: Reading Strategies

  • Stay positive on yourself. You can make it through a page of text. It's okay even if you don't understand every single sentence; the important thing is getting the general idea.
  • Stay positive on the reading passages. If you go in expecting them to be boring and awful, they will be exactly that. Instead, try to get excited for them. If you can make yourself want to read them, it will be that much easier to understand what they say.
  • Most people start off by reading the passage from start to finish without stopping, then answering the questions about the passage in order. Once they're done, they move on to the next passage. For some people, this is the best strategy. But you should try some others before settling on it.
  • You're allowed to write in your test booklet, so use that to your advantage. Take notes on the text while you read: underline important ideas and jot down a quick (2-3 words) summary in the margin now and then.
  • Strategy-Chunking: Our first alternate strategy makes major use of the idea of writing and analyzing while reading. Here's how to do it:
    1. Break the passage into smaller pieces-"chunks". Each chunk should be about 10-15 lines. It helps to break them on paragraphs, but it's okay to break up larger paragraphs into smaller chunks.
    2. Draw lines on your paper to clearly divide each chunk.
    3. Start at the beginning of the passage and read the first chunk. After you finish the chunk, write a short (5 words max) summary/reminder of what it was about.
    4. Repeat this procedure for each chunk, going in order.
    5. Once you've read all the chunks, summarize the whole passage in a single sentence. (If it's a double passage, do this at the end of each passage.) Like summarizing the chunks, try to keep it short and simple.
    6. Now you're ready for the questions. Use your analysis and newfound understanding of the text to help you answer the questions.
  • Strategy-Treasure Hunt: Our other alternate strategy is very different from Chunking. Here's how to do it:
    1. Read the italicized introduction, but don't read the passage yet.
    2. Skim the questions and find the ones with line references.
    3. For each question with a line reference, mark the corresponding location in the passage.
    4. Once you've marked all the question locations, start reading from the beginning of the passage.
    5. As you near a question location (3-4 lines above), flip to the corresponding question and read it. Then go back to the question, continue reading the passage, and once you have a sense of the answer, go back to the question and find the correct choice.
    6. Go back to the passage and continue reading. Repeat the process as you approach each question location until you've finished the passage.
    7. Once you've answered all the questions with line references, attempt the general questions that did not have line references (at that point you'll have read the entire text).
  • Special Strategy-Double Passages: If you find it really hard to read two passages, try the following way to separate them:
    1. First, read Passage 1, then go answer all the questions just about Passage 1.
    2. Second, read Passage 2, then answer its questions.
    3. Finally, answer the questions that involve comparing and contrasting the passages/authors' viewpoints.
  • Once you've tried a variety of different strategies, figure out what works best for you. There is no one "best" strategy for everyone when it comes to reading: you just need to try a bunch of things and figure out what helps you the most. If you figure out some other strategy that works even better for you, great! As long as it helps you and improves your score, feel free!
  • If you want to improve your reading abilities, you need to practice reading. Find material that you want to read (that's slightly challenging) and just start reading it every day.

Critical Reading: Reading Strategies

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Legal Disclaimer 0:12
  • Introduction 0:22
  • Stay Positive: Yourself 0:55
    • 'Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't - You're Right'
    • Get the General Idea
  • Stay Positive: The Passage 2:51
    • If You Convince Yourself It's Interesting, It'll be Easier to Understand and Read
  • What Makes Reading Hard? 4:34
    • Understanding
    • Focus
  • Strategy: the Default 6:43
    • Read the Passage from Start to Finish, Then Answer Questions in Order
    • Good Strategy for Strong Readers Who Find it Easy to Focus
  • Write While You Read 7:55
    • Takes Notes
    • Underline Important Ideas
    • It Keeps You Aware of What's Important in the Text
    • It Gives You Something to Actively Do
  • Strategy: Chunking 9:54
    • Break the Passage into Smaller Pieces
    • Draw Lines on Your Paper to Divide Each Chunk
    • Keep Summary Short
    • Summarize the Whole Passage
    • Answer Questions
    • Pros
    • Cons
  • Strategy: Treasure Hunt 17:39
    • Read Italicized Introduction to the Passage But Don't Read the Passage Yet
    • Skim Questions for Lines with Passage Reference
    • Mark the Line Reference in the Passage
    • Flip Back to the Corresponding Questions When You Get Near a Mark
    • Continue Reading With the Question in Mind
    • Pros
    • Cons
  • Special Strategy: Double Passages 24:07
    • How to Read Two Passages at Once
  • Special Strategy: Smash and Grab 25:47
    • Skip Reading the Passage and Find a Questions About a Specific Line Reference
    • Pros
    • Cons
    • Terrible Strategy: Keep Track of Your Time!
    • Practice
  • Figure Our Your Strategy 31:33
    • There is No 'Best' Strategy
  • Practice Reading 33:06
    • Any Reading Material That You Find Interesting and Slightly Challenging is Great