Active Reading techniques for efficient learning

Active Reading is one of the most efficient study techniques. Before I discuss what does active reading involve or the purpose and definitions, let me give you an insight first.
A scientific study shows that exam pressure or motivation for study is not enough for better retention of the materials. Surprisingly, If the topics that are being read is processed in the brain for a while, then the retention rate becomes twice as much than normal reading. 
That is the basic purpose of active reading. 

Practical Knowledge Book


Coming from that, let's first discuss the definition of active reading. What Active Reading really means is you're reading the material with a mindset to test yourself later by quizzing yourself/creating word blanks or simple questions and then predicting the answer, allowing your brain to process the information that you just learned. 
The basic idea of active reading is to use your brain to remember the information instead of simply viewing the answers already presented in the Textbook or answer sheet.

Active Reading and Passive Reading

The way most of us read, reading the textbook word by word and thinking the materials are getting absorbed in the brain automatically is Passive Reading. It's a very inefficient technique that many of us still use. This technique gives you an illusion of mastering the topic which is for real you haven't yet mastered.
On the other hand, active reading allows you to process the data in the brain. Retention Rate of any information becomes a whole lot better by increasing the interaction with the brain. Active Reading and the active recalling does that very well.
The difference between active and passive reading is that you don't use your brain that much in passive reading. 
 So, at this stage you may be wondering, Okay, I know Active Reading is way better than passive reading already, but How can I implement active reading in my study or what are the strategies or steps, methods of it?. Well, That's really flexible. You can be as creative as you like keeping the principle of Active Recall in mind which is "Make your brain think or deeply process about the topic".
Here are some ideas or strategies with examples that you can apply for active reading in college or university or even in school. But you have to practice and change the way you take notes.

 

1. Paraphrasing

While reading a book, keep your notebook close. When you're going through each topic, re-write the text very fast in your own words removing the jargon. This will force your brain to do deeper processing and hence, it's an active reading. But in this technique you've to keep in mind that, you should not waste much of your time making the notes thorough. The goals is to make your brain work.

 
Paragraph

2. Making Questions

This is an easy but powerful strategy for active reading. After reading a paragraph, go to the beginning of that para and think about the important lines or what's the takeaway of that piece of text. Then turn them into questions. You can also create question as you read, but this may cause you to loose focus. Then try to remember the questions without looking at the answers. Try to remember, make your brain work, process. Then check the answers.

Question


 

3. Mini Summary

After reading a page or a few paragraphs. Try to write a one paragraph summary to that topic without looking at the book. Try to remember the gist of it and force your brain to do so. This will make allow the brain to do the deeper processing and hence it's active reading.

 

4. Make Flash Cards

One of the benefits of flashcards is that it's built for active recall which forces your brain to remember the information actively. While reading a topic you can make questions on one side of the flashcard, and the answers on the opposite side, then try to remember them without seeing the answers.
But this may take time, so it's not recommended to turn every line into a flashcard question. After going through all the materials, you'll have an idea which is the most important topic/idea to retain. Then you should make flashcards. 

Flashcards


You can also use digital flashcards like Anki, which is free and just awesome. I'll write a whole article about it soon.
 

5. Draw mind maps or diagrams

Being able to draw a diagram or mind maps mean, you really know the topic. So, if you read with an intention to draw mind maps, you'll force your brain to read actively. Besides they provide visualization of abstract topics which also help better retention.

 
Graph

6. Create an Outline

It's also a strategy for active study. Essentially, what you need to do is to create an outline for a topic. And then try to remember what your really understand about them. This process also forces your brain to think.

Outline

 

7. Teach others

This is a great strategy to make sure you do active reading. Because if you do passive reading the chance of understanding the topic and making it understandable to others would be very low. If you read any topic with a view to teaching others, you force your brain to do deeper processing.

 
Teach

8. Create fill in the blanks questions

If you're reading the book in a mobile device/computers/similar digital device, you can use this method. The idea is to make the important words of the section/paragraph such a color that makes it invisible, and then try to remember what it was. This will save your time to manually creating questions.

 

9. Use Voice typing to make questions

Instead of typing the questions for active recall, manually by hand, you can use voice typing. This will save you a lot of time. Gboard and many other apps supports voice typing which is available in the playstore.
Voice Typing



 

10. Create Metaphors and Analogies

Creating metaphors, as you read topics will make your brain to constantly think about the topic and force to do deeper processing, and hence that will be active reading. So, you can see you can apply active reading in many ways as long as you keep the principle with it.
So, get creative and implement these ideas into your learning workflow for 30 days and let us know how did it go.

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