How to Comprehend What You Read

Reading is one of the main methods we use to acquire knowledge.  We read so many different things every day – posters, sign boards, newspapers, notices, web pages, social media posts, text messages, novels, poems, etc. Sometimes we use our reading skills even without thinking. For example, we don’t consciously make an effort to read a sign board or a text message you receive your phone. But, you are able to understand the information presented in these texts. However, there are also occasions where you have finished reading a book but have no idea what you read. Read this article to know how to avoid this drawback and to learn how to comprehend what you read.  

How to Comprehend What You Read

Before Reading:

  1. Understand What Type of Book You’re Reading

Before start reading the book, take some time to understand what type of a book is it. Is it a novel? textbook? or a religious book? If it is a textbook, it is also helpful to know to which field it belongs (science, philosophy, finance, etc.). You can know this information by scanning the cover of the book. Having some background knowledge of the subject always helps.

Next, check out the format of the book. Is there an abstract? How many chapters does it have? If you are looking for information, you can scan the content page, and select the specific chapter that contains the specific information you want.

  1. Know What is Your Goal

Before reading, you should always have a clear idea why you are reading the book. Are you reading it for pleasure, for studies or just to get an idea about a new concept?

Knowing your purpose will give you goal or focus. This will help also you to decide what strategy you need to use. For example, if you are reading for pleasure, there is no need to make notes.

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During Reading:

  1. Read more than once

First, you can skim the article to get a general idea about the content. Note the words, phrases, and sentences that you don’t understand. After you have gotten a general idea about the text, find the meanings of the words and phrases you don’t know. Then, you can read the text again, more slowly and attentively.

  1. Break up Long Sentences and Rearrange

Sometimes, you will find long sentences that make no sense. Even if you understand all the words in the sentences, you may find it difficult to understand what it means. In such instances, you can break the long sentence into shorter ones carefully.

  1. Read Out Loud

Some readers find it easier to focus when they read the words out loud. This will help you to read at a constant pace. This can also avoid skimming too quickly. Reading the text can also make a text more dramatic, especially if you find it boring.  

  1. Mark up the Text

Don’t be afraid to highlight the main concepts and ideas or underline interesting concepts. (unless you’re using someone else’s book). You can also write questions in the margins.

But don’t underline or highlight random passages because you think they are important. This will make your reading more difficult.


  1. Make Notes

Making notes is the best way to make sure that you understand the text properly. You can write a brief summary at the end of each section. If you find the book very difficult, write a few sentences of summary at the end of each page. This will help you to focus more attention. You can also go back to the pages you have read to recall what you have read so far.

How to Comprehend What You Read

After Reading:

8. Summarize 

After you have completed reading the text, you can make a brief summary of the whole text. The chapter summaries and page summaries you made earlier will make this task easier. 

9. Review

You can also write a review of the book you have read. If the book was a fiction, you can comment on the plot, characterization, literary devices, etc. You can also write what you liked about it and what you didn’t like about it. If you read an  academic text, (text book, research article, paper, etc.) you can critic the theories, methodology that have been used. This will improve your critical thinking skills. 


Reading is never easy; it always requires careful attention and concentration. Skimming through a text for the sake of reading will never help you to comprehend a text properly and learn any new information.  Following the above-mentioned steps will help you comprehend what you read properly. 

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.