Regardless of whether you’re studying literature or law, university study involves a lot of reading. Especially as a new student, the amount of reading you’re required to do can be quite daunting. Because you simply don’t have the time to re-read every text 10 times, one of the first things you need to learn is to read efficiently. But don’t worry, with the right strategies and a little bit of practice, everyone can become a skilled reader. Here are some helpful tips on how to read more efficiently:


  1. Write down pre-reading questions. Before reading a text, it’s always helpful to get a short overview and familiarize yourself with the text. Questions you should ask yourself include: Who’s the author? What type of text am I dealing with? When was the text published (context)? What’s the topic? What do I already know about the topic?
  2. Know your why. It’s always easier to read a text with a purpose in mind. Before reading a text, try to ask yourself why you’re reading it. Reading a text to gain knowledge, for example, is something different than reading a text for analysis.
  3. Set yourself reading goals. Break reading into manageable portions and set yourself a goal about how many pages/hours you’d like to read.


  1. Take notes. Paraphrase or summarize key ideas and write down important quotations (ideally on a different piece of paper). Use the margins to write down short headlines & annotations. If you’re reading an analysis or opinion piece, comment on passages you agree/ disagree with.
  2. Highlight important words and passages so that you can find them again quickly. I recommend using a maximum of three different colours as otherwise it might get too confusing.
  3. Underline unfamiliar words or concepts. Ideally, look them up after reading the text to not interrupt your reading flow. If the text doesn’t make sense without knowing the meaning of a word or concept, however, take a break to look it up.
  4. Take breaks! If you’ve reached your reading goal, reward yourself with a break. Taking breaks is generally super important because it not only helps reduce fatigue but also gives your brain a chance to process all the information from your reading session.


  1. Write down open questions/questions you like to discuss in class.
  2. Revisit any words or concepts you didn’t understand and reread the respective passage with the new knowledge in mind.
  3. Ask yourself how the text relates to other texts dealt with in class. Can you spot any parallels or differences? If you’ve read a text for a particular assignment, ask yourself how you can relate the information from the text to your assignment.
  4. Visualize the main ideas of the text by drawing a mindmap to structure your thoughts.

I hope that you found some of these tips helpful and can use them for your own studies. Don’t worry, you’ll become a more efficient reader with every text you read. So keep practising!

Do you have any further tips? Let me know in the comment section below!

11 thoughts on “Reading Skills: How to Read Efficiently

  1. I love that you broke down the essentials of a reading routine in such an effective manner!! I need to keep some of these things in mind when it comes to the myriad of scholarly articles i read as a historian :’) When I’ve employed some of these in the past, I’ve always felt better for it and seen great results x

    Liked by 1 person

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