How to improve reading comprehension
Learning how to reader faster is less important than improving reading comprehension. What is important when
reading is understanding and being able to recall and apply learnt information when required. The time it takes to
read the information is irrelevant. You can read quickly, but it you are not able to remember what you have read
then quicker is not better.
There are many speed reading programs that focus on speed rather than comprehension and people are measuring
comprehension using the wrong criteria.
There are three separate levels of reading comprehension. Understanding the differences between the levels is part
of learning to improve reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension - Literal learningThe first level of
reading comprehension is the literal stage. Literal learning is reading the exact text printed on the page. Often
this is basic information that needs to be understood. It could be about people, places, things and their actions.
Statistical and other rote learnt information is included in this category. While you may be able to recall the
information, it does not necessarily mean that you understand what you have read. Many people read by memorising
words without truly understanding the significance of the information.
Reading comprehension - Implied learningThe second stage is
the implied learning level. This requires more complex thinking on the part of the reader. Implied information is
not written into the text. Instead the author presumes that you have some understanding of the information
presented and can make conclusions for yourself. For example, if you were to read in a book that a donkey had a
long black tail then the author has made several assumptions. They presume that you know what the words donkey,
long, black and tail mean. Writers cannot be expected to define what every word means, otherwise the document would
be very long and quite uninteresting to read. Implied learning requires you to critically analyse the information.
Implied learning is more interesting and engaging than literal information reading.
Reading comprehension - Inferential learning
The third level of reading comprehension is inferential reading.
Inferential reading occurs when you understand the meaning and significance of the material at the most complex
level. Inferential reading involves integrating previously learnt information and contrasting it with the new
information being read. It is the ability to use the information in a way that even the writer had not anticipated.
For example, you take Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs and apply Jobs' business strategies in an entirely
different industry. Inferential reading is taking command of the written word.
Summary - Improving reading comprehension
Simply reading text does not equate to taking command of the
information. Understanding the three levels of reading is the first step to improve reading comprehension. Once the
three levels of comprehension are understood you can determine which level of comprehension you need to apply to
the particular document you are reading.
Howard Stephen Berg - The World's Fastest Reader
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