How To Develop Active Reading Skills

Active reading can be more than just highlighting certain sections of a text in order to come back to it later. If done rightly, it requires focus, pre-planning and reflection. Here are some ways to really engage with a piece of text, so as to enjoy and learn.


We all do this to one degree or another, but previewing is simply looking at a text and trying to get a quick idea about what it might be about. Look through headings, chapters, and other information including images. Does it appeal to you? Furthermore, you should try to look at how the main argument seems to be organised.

By taking the time out to preview, you are comparing what you currently know to what you might find out. This process should continue as you read, but it’s good to make a conscious attempt from the start.


Part of comparing what you know, with what you are to learn, is trying to predict what might be included in the text. This way, you are not only starting to engage with the text, but are also laying the foundations for future motivation.

Are you more likely to watch a game of sport if you place a bet on it? The answer for the most is yes, because you are now tied to its outcome.
In predicting, you try to bring into focus all that you know about the matter at hand, which will include author details, understanding of the discipline and other current trends. This is also a great way to refresh your memory, and is a type of 'activation of prior knowledge'.


You should start questioning the text as soon as you start to read. This should continue all the way through your reading. Each question you manage to answer increases your understanding and, if you ask strategic questions, you will get at the information that you are most interested in. Again, in exercising what you know, you are also more liable to store it in your memory.

Interrogating the text means to come at it from different angles – as a detective might – in order to reveal something new. Having a similar attitude to reading is potentially very helpful.


Front covers leave an impression, that’s because images (especially for some people) are more memorable than sounds or words. Either way, visualising is an excellent tool in comprehension and memory. Even if you are reading non-fiction, try to picture what the author is talking about.

Connect with your own life

The chances are that if you are reading something you enjoy then you are more than likely reading something that is in some way connected to your life. Asking personal questions about a text, whether science or literature, can inspire and bring new insights. We know best what we have experienced and this can give confidence in understanding a piece of reading.

Furthermore, if you are not currently doing anything that is related to the text but really enjoy it, then it might be a sign that you should take up whatever it is as a hobby!

This post was kindly contributed by They provide academic writing courses for students at all levels. Their team of experienced tutors is dedicated to helping students develop better academic argument and improving their writing skills.

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