This post was written by an external contributor. Lucy Pegg breaks down how to make it through even the most extensive of reading lists.
Most students know that every term you’re handed a reading list that seems impossible to keep up with. In fact, I doubt there are many other avenues of life where being asked to read three books a week is considered a reasonable request – and that’s before you even think about reading anything for fun.
But here are five tips for conquering that stack of literature, created using all the speed reading related wisdom gained during an English degree – because no matter how intimidating those articles and anthologies might look, there are ways to hold your own against them. Use this list and you’ll never be forcing yourself through an article the night before your seminar again.
Start on your reading list early
It’s common sense, but the best way to beat your reading list is to get started early. If your tutor sends you a reading list in the holidays before term starts, that’s your cue to begin reading.
Yes, holidays are meant to be a break from studying, but if you do some gentle reading then you’ll feel far less stressed once term begins. Get under your duvet, pour yourself a coffee, and spend your holidays the way all the coolest students do…
Skim and scan
Remember when they taught you how to “skim and scan” in primary school, presumably then so that you could ace your SATS? Well it turns out skimming and scanning is a technique that can be pretty useful at university too, especially if you’re pressed for time.
When all you need to do is finish an article or book, and extract the necessary information from it, just skim your way through the pages, scanning for bits that look important or interesting. Maybe its not the behaviour of a model student, but it gets the job done in a pinch.
Go crazy with your highlighter
If you’re thinking that highlighting whilst you read makes the whole process take longer, you would be right. But in the long run, those highlighted passages will be a godsend.
Once its time for essay writing or presentations, all the important bits of your text will be ready for you, standing out in brilliant neon colours. That means there’s no need to reread it, saving you precious time. If you’re having a stress about submitting work, you’ll be so glad you put in the effort when reading the first time round.
Just as crucial as reading quickly, is reading sensibly. Don’t start on the novel you’re studying in week 12 if there’s a collection of essays you need to read for week four, first!
When you receive your reading list or course outline, give it a glance over and note the texts that are going to need some serious time and effort to read. If you’re feeling really organised you could even flag these up in your diary, reminding yourself that you might want to leave a bit more time than usual to contend with that week’s reading.
This way you avoid the frenzy of realising that your seminar tomorrow is based on a 60-page essay, not a quick 15-page article.
Take your book (or books) everywhere
Whenever you leave your house, pack your books in your bag. Off to the doctor’s? Put that book in your bag to look through in the waiting room. Getting a bus? Read at the stop when your bus is inevitably delayed. You just never know when you’re going to have time to kill, but if you have your reading in your bag you can at least turn those moments of waiting into productive study time – and without much effort either.
So next time a reading list wings its way to your door/inbox/desk, there’ll be no need to panic. With these new tips under your belt, those books won’t know what’s hit them.