Reading self-assessment, improve your concentration

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Reading self-assessmentLearning styles and approaches to readingImprove your concentration

Reading self-assessment

  • 0 = describes me almost never
  • 1 = describes me sometimes
  • 2 = describes me often, or to a large degree


Reading speed

1.      I would describe myself as a slow reader compared to other students.



2.     I have difficulty finding the main idea when I read.

3.     I often need to read materials several times before I understand it.

4.     I have difficulty interpreting the meaning of words I read.

5. I have trouble ‘reading between the lines’ for implied meaning.


Volume of material

6.     I cannot read all the required readings (not enough time).

7.     I cannot keep up with supplementary readings.

8.    I skim before reading for detail.



9._   I often can‘t keep focused, unless I‘m very interested in the material.

10.     My eyes often see the words, but my mind is somewhere else.

11.     I am easily distracted by my own thoughts while reading.

12.     I am easily distracted by things going on around me.



13.    I forget much of what I read soon afterwards.

14.    I make notes while reading.

15.    I highlight or underline while reading.



Numbers 8, 14, 15 represent effective reading strategies. All other questions represent problem areas.

Learning styles and approaches to reading

Learning styles refers to your preferred way of gaining an understanding of the world, but not your only or best way of learning.

NOTE: The myth of 'learning styles'

MYTH: I have one way of learning and reading (e.g., “I’m a visual learner”).

REALITY: Evidence-based research does not support the common-sense notion of a preferred learning style or the utility of a teaching method associated with learning styles. Although many students are committed to the idea, feeling that it just makes sense (“I’m such a visual learner, I always just need to see it.”), we all can adapt to various circumstances and learn effectively.

Source: “The Learning Styles Myth is Thriving in Higher Education” (2015).

Four domains

Learning style includes how you prefer to:

  1. Connect with or grasp information: through sensing tangible realities like facts and details, or intuiting or speculating about imagined possibilities of ideas, or abstractions.
  2. Receive sensory input: through your visual, verbal or kinaesthetic systems.
  3. Make information meaningful to yourself: by active experimentation and interaction with information, discovering as you go, or reflection and observation using reasoning, logic and independent analysis
  4. Develop a pattern of understanding:-through a sequential pattern of building on previously known material in a step-by-step fashion, or a global pattern of understanding the end-point or Big Picture, but not necessarily being able to articulate specific details or procedures.

Strategies for reading with different learning styles

1. Grasping material

SENSORS: focus on the details, facts, what has already been discovered and described; your notes will tend to be copies of the details in the text.

  • Relate those details to the broader concepts
  • Apply facts to the ―real world
  • Think of implications of the facts.

INTUITORS: focus on a deep understanding; may get side-tracked on appealing new ideas.

  • Focus on ‘theory’ to ‘practice’
  • Record facts in your notes so you have something specific to study from later on.  Provide enough detail to be able to teach or explain your notes to someone else.

2.  Preferred sensory input

VISUAL learners: attracted to pictures, graphs, charts, and the visual construction of words.

  • Represent as much of the written text as possible in graphic form like a mind map to visualize details and connections, or tables and charts to compare and contrast information
  • Study by translating graphics into words, as ultimately this will be required to communicate with others. Learn new vocabulary by parsing words into familiar sections, and using cue cards for drilling
  • Use colour, underling and boxes to highlight key concepts
  • Learn how to use mind maps for summarizing texts and notes. Use arrows to draw relationships between concepts.

VERBAL learners: enjoy spoken or written words. Reading is your thing!

  • Read aloud or sub-vocalize the text. Hear the sound of the words in our mind. Verbally interpret graphics, charts, etc.
  • Talk to yourself as you read: ask questions to help guide your focus, and answer your own questions. Write notes at the end of each section or sub-section of a chapter. The Cornell method may help you. Tape yourself as you summarize key points in a text, and the listen to the tape as a memory aid. Create songs, rhymes or jingles as a memory aid to key points
  • Read with a study friend, and discuss things you don‘t understand

KINESTHETIC learners: Reading may be challenging due to the need for concentrated focus and the lack of physical motor-based learning involved.

  • Read with a pointer or your finger on the line of print
  • Make notes as you go along, summarizing each small section
  • Draw diagrams or flow charts of how you would conduct an experiment or solve a problem. Go beyond the words on the page and try to apply the ideas.
  • Think of the ‘real world’ implications of what you are reading.
  • Read within your attention span. Take breaks as needed and involve physical activity to reduce restlessness.
  • Determine the key sections of readings (ask your professor) to reduce the amount to be read.
  • Tap a rhythm or talk with your hands if it helps you concentrate.


3.  Styles of making information meaningful

ACTIVITY BASED learners: emphasize the active components of reading

  • Interact with the written material by sub-vocalizing the text
  • Use the SQ4R method, especially the Question, Read, and Recite elements
  • Make notes in written or graphic form
  • At the end of a chapter section apply your understanding by imagining how you could test the theory, generate an experiment, and a design a piece of equipment
  • Generate study questions for later use, focusing on key concepts, relationships and applications
  • Read with a friend, and talk about ideas at the end of the reading


REFLECTIVE OBSERVERS: learn readily from texts

  • Read in a quiet space
  • Designate time to think and develop your ideas
  • Read small sections and then make notes of details. It is not reasonable to expect yourself to understand the whole chapter after 1 reading from start to finish.
  • Summarize in your own words.
  • Engage your thinking by asking questions as you read
  • Balance the need to learn details with your desire to understand and generate abstract conceptualizations.

4.  Patterns of learning

SEQUENTIAL learners: appreciate methodically presented textbooks or journal articles

  • Inspect the layout of the text for cues as to its organization: bold print, size of type for titles and subtitles, use of sidebars, presence of review questions.
  • Develop an outline before you read, by writing down titles. This road map will help you see the logical pattern and goal of the reading.
  • Make notes of key ideas at the conclusion of each section
  • Stretch your thinking by looking for associations and connections between details. Try using a mind map to understand the Big Picture.

GLOBAL learners: might read texts and form conclusions without knowing how you got there

  • Read the chapter outline or learning objectives before reading the text, to gain an overview and so that your attention is drawn to the individual steps, facts or concepts to be learned.
  • Make notes that include both major themes and details and facts, e.g. by using a mind map.
  • After reading, talk to a friend about the logical steps or relationships involved in the Big Picture. Practice teaching the individual concepts that lead up to your conclusion or global understanding.

Improve your concentration


External factors

Work in an appropriate place

Choose a location that is peaceful, secluded and well-lit where you are not disturbed.

  • Stay clear of cafeterias, buses, or cafés — You may be easily distracted in these places.
  • If you can’t stand silence, try playing soft music (without words).
  • Only have things you need on your desk.
  • Make sure your pens, dictionaries, are nearby so you don’t have to get up.
  • Save your desk for work only. This way you will associate your workspace with studying.

Work in an action-promoting position

  • You should be in a sitting position, slightly tilted towards your books.
  • If you are sleepy, stand up to study!
  • Avoid your bed and soft chairs — they tend to promote sleep.

Internal factors

Prepare your mind

  • Avoid exciting activities before you start studying.
  • Give yourself a few minutes of calm and relaxation before your study period.

Take regular breaks

  • Take a short break each hour to keep your concentration at its best.
  • Have a drink or splash some water in your face. Take a walk or stretch your limbs.

Be active

  • Study with a pen or pencil in your hands.
  • Underline, highlight and put asterisks and notes in the margin.

Approach studying effectively

  • Divide your work into stages or chunks.
  • Be specific about what you want to accomplish (e.g. ―read chapter 8, complete exercise D. Not “study biology.” That’s too broad!)

Manage daydreaming or distracting thoughts

This occurs when your mind has to choose between something pleasurable and something demanding.

  • Refocus yourself on your studies and return to your books as soon as you can. If you have to daydream, absolutely do not do it at your workspace.
  • If you frequently think of things that distract you from work, write down these thoughts and return to studying. Read your notes over later and deal with important thoughts.
  • Use the desire to snack, get up or see friends as a reward at the end of a study session.

Dealing with problems affecting concentration

  • Lack of sleep, lack of food, excessive fatigue, high stress and personal problems can cause a lack of concentration. Follow a schedule: get a full night’s sleep, sufficient activity/exercise, a balanced diet, and relaxation.
  • Address personal problems before studying or note them on paper (keep a Worry List) and make peace with yourself.
  • Speak to someone about it. Meet with a Learning Strategist at the Learning Commons of Stauffer Library. Call 613-533-6315 to book an appointment.