Reading Comprehension : Break the barriers, hoist your flag at IIM, IAS, NLS.. !

Book – Young leaders Success Code – features R.Sreenivasan!

In the last edition of this series, Make ‘Reading’ a Passion : especially CAT and competition participants, we discussed some of the fundamental principles you have to inculcate to be an effective and efficient reader, and to enhance your performance in the Reading Comprehension (RC) section.  I am sure some of you have certainly tried out the principles that we discussed in the last column.

The principles you came across were –

  •  Involvement, enthusiasm or enjoyment is the foremost requirement for excelling
  • Visualizing the authors narration of his imagination will make you a clear winner
  • Elimination of regression will result in augmentation of your speed

In continuation, in this edition, you will encounter a few more principles, which would make all the difference between a good reader and a bad one.

Principle No. 4.   Enlarge Recognition Span; Decrease Fixation Time

Many of you must be looking at one word at a time while reading. You concentrate more on words rather than on the meaning behind the words. You are having an affair with the words and not with ideas. By doing so, you realize many a time that you have not got the hold on what the author intends to say.

An effective reader will take the given lines as a stream of ideas or thought processes rather than as a stream of words. He will read a chunk of words or a clause that offer some meaning and conveys a thought.  Ideally, if you are an effective reader you will be imbibing seven to eight words in one go. This measure of grasping a group of words in one go is called recognition span. It means, in order to be effective, you should try and increase your recognition span. Newspaper columns offer you a good practice exercise to increase the same. You should be able to take one line of newspaper column in one go. The time taken to recognize the span is called fixation time. The lesser the time you take to recognize the span, the faster you will be in covering the distance. Hence, you should try and increase your recognition span and at the same time decrease your fixation time and become an efficient reader.

Principle No. 5.   Push your Comfort Zone Speed (CZS)

You read at speeds at which you believe can comprehend most of what you read. This applies to both information reading as well as pleasure reading. This speed of reading could be termed as ‘Comfort Zone Speed’.

CZS is a result of poor habits that you have built through years of the wrong kind of practices. Passive reading habits have worsened the situation. It is you who have decided that the speed at which you are reading is the most comfortable speed. No one has thrust that upon you. It is now time to have a re-look and question the reading methods and techniques you have become a slave of.

The reading comprehension demands you to read at speeds which are much higher than your CZS.  If your CZS is low, you will find yourself reading at an uncomfortable speed, to pace with the required speed. This will result in low comprehension or ‘cognition strain’. On the other hand, if you do not want to take the risk and you enjoy being at CZS, then you will not be able to complete all the given passages. This will definitely not serve your purpose. Hence, you have to take the risk. You should practice constantly and gradually in order to improve on speed and comprehension. This would help in pushing the CZS.

When you try pushing your speed comprehension and retention may go down initially. You should not be flustered. Try maintaining at the same speed, the comprehension will return in due course. This speed will be your new CZS. Once you start enjoying this speed, its time to push the speed again. It is a proven fact that the higher the speed, the greater the comprehension, since you are trying to break the frontiers and you are keeping your brain on alert to come to your help in comprehending whatever you are reading. At lower speeds the concentration is low, and you must have realized while reading, your mind wanders and goes for shopping, watching movies etc. Increase your concentration by increasing your speed.

Principle No. 6.  Indulge in Active Reading

The secret to effectiveness is to do active reading. By being active, you are trying to understand what author is trying to say. While you are grasping the information provided therein, you keep asking questions like ‘what is he saying’, ‘why is he saying so’, or ‘How can he say that’ etc. By questioning his intentions, his narration or his way of giving information, you are trying to bridge the distance between the your knowledge base, a collection of all of your life experiences and learning, existing in your brain and  the new information provided on the piece of paper. By seeking more, you are able to predict what the author may say ahead in the passage. By doing so, you will make this information a part of your knowledge base and rule the RC section.

The stream of words is not mere words, they give away much more. Authors reveal attitude by their choice of words and narration of experiences. By indulging in active reading you are also running with the authors flow of thoughts and ideas, his style of expression. You will be able to grasp the mood of the author, attitude or intentions of the author.

Invariably all the passages will have questions probing authors’ views and intentions, idea behind the passage, implied information etc. If you are involved in active reading you will be able to crack all such questions.

Mechanics for reading

In order to be efficient while reading, skim all the questions at the end of the passage before entering the passage. So you know what to watch for in the written material.

  • Read the passage as quickly as you can, concentrating first on the main points and essence.
  • Mark the focal points, specific examples
  • Mark the shifts in the viewpoint, like the phrases – nevertheless, ironically, in spite of, however, although etc.
  • Also pay attention to the concluding sentences to get the gist or theme of the passage.

Make an effort to incorporate some of the principles discussed so far and reap rich dividends. Push the frontiers. Experience the pleasure.

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Thanks and Best Wishes.

Sreeni.

Sreeni@careerlauncher.com

For motivating yourself regularly, I recommend you bookmark the following and watch the sessions and videos there in- Dream It, Do It!

Think Big, Start Small!

[A variant of this article first appeared in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, September 03, 1998. Since then this has been picked by so many publications. Here I reproduced for the benefit of all CAT and competition exam takers. The principles of excellence do not change… they live for life time!]

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8 Responses

  1. great article sir ! just need to ask that is it possible to increase my speed within 2 months without compromising on comprehension ?Also any specific approach for inference based questions ? TIA 🙂

    Like

    • Yes! Just follow the principles. Believe in yourself. Only you can make it happen.

      Inference based questions require very attentive reading. Once you are able to apply principles naturally, you will do better there too…

      Best wishes TIA

      Like

  2. After eliminating the options I am often confused between the two and one of them happens to be the OA….how to improve accuracy ??

    Like

    • One of the two is the original answer. The subconscious mind that has been actively reading knows the correct answer. It tells you ‘this’ is right, chose it. But the conscious mind tells, ‘it cannot be so easy, the other one is right’. Chose the subconscious mind and you most probably will be right (70-80%) of the time. Do not waste time here. Just move.. and maximize…

      Like

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