CLE Academic Coaching


Two areas college students may struggle with are reading and writing. If what you are reading is difficult to understand, taking notes and using a dictionary are great ways to help build college level reading comprehension. When you read something, make notes about what you read. If you take notes to make sense of what you are reading, this helps when reviewing and studying for upcoming exams. 

To explain your understanding of what you read in class, or in an essay, you need to be prepared to prove your point. Taking notes of the main ideas of what you read, or important points that stand out to you, helps tremendously. When you are reading a textbook, bold, italics, and even boxes of set apart words and phrases that are important are usually good indicators of key concepts you should learn. Some textbooks even have chapter summaries that break down what you should know, offer short quizzes to check your reading comprehension, and provide key terms for each chapter. Other books may be more difficult to figure out. Implementing and building reading strategies, such as the SQ3R method (survey, question, read, recite, and review), offers a procedural approach to reading material. 

Writing becomes a similar activity. In essay writing, taking notes is most important because you often need to cite sources (where you got your information from) to back up the points you are making. Building writing strategies involves the understanding of basic essay structure and the different writing formats. Writing assignments require awareness of the assignment requirements and often include brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising phases. Establishing effective writing skills helps you as a college student not only in academic writing, but it prepares you for writing effectively throughout your career. 


Reading Tips

Reading with a purpose

Reading a textbook can be difficult and boring at times. A textbook is very different from reading a novel. Textbooks are not meant to read through page to page like a novel.

 The following strategies are great for reading a chapter of a textbook and retaining what you read. Follow the following steps to help you read with a purpose.


Flip through each page of the chapter.

Just look to see what’s on each page, do not read, look at the pictures, how long is the chapter, are there graphs, does anything jump out at you? This will give you a sense of how long the chapter is and what to expect.


Check the end of the chapter for a quiz/review questions.

The review/quiz at the end of the chapter is what the author wants you to understand most about the chapter you read. Write down each question, review them, understand what each question is asking, do not answer questions yet.


Read the bold print of the chapter.

The bold print is your guideline while reading, it shows you the heading of what you are reading and will help you breakdown the information. So simply look through the chapter and read the bold print quickly. *Keep your review questions handy while reading the bold.


Finally, begin to read the chapter.

Now that you have previewed what the chapter is about and your brain is set up and ready to absorb the information, begin to read the chapter. While you are reading have your review questions you wrote down and answer them as you read.


As you read the chapter and answer the review questions, you will feel very accomplished because not only are you reading the chapter, but you finally are reading with a purpose and feel a sense of accomplishment which WILL translate to academic success.


Tips for Students: Strategies for Reading


In Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, author Linda Wong defines active reading as “… the process of using effective strategies to engage working memory to achieve specific reading goals” (267). To help students put the active reading process into action, Wong includes a checklist of active reading strategies. We’ve adapted these below. Encourage your students to adopt these strategies for reading… they’ll find that they get even more out of their study time.




Suggested active-learning strategies for reading course materials

  • Before you sit down to study, grab a pen or pencil. Take down notes as you read. If you’re working with printed materials, underline essential facts and ideas and jot down notes in the margins. (Review some additional tips for effective note-taking.)
  • Write the key terms, ideas, and dates from the reading onto index cards; use these as flashcards to review at a later time.
  • Create study tools as you go! For example, you could write your own practice test questions. If you see a diagram, copy it into your own notebook. Or, to take it a step further: take an idea, process, or concept that’s covered in a section of the text, and see if you can create your own chart or diagram that illustrates the information you need to learn, know, and do.
  • Carefully consider how each paragraph of the piece is structured. This active reading strategy will help you think critically about the points and arguments presented in the reading.
  • Look closely at any photographs, illustrations, and diagrams included in the reading material. Make notes on these as well: they’re more than illustrations… they convey important information about the subject you’re studying.

Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Essential Study Skills, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.