Seven Simple Success Steps for Improving Reading Comprehension and Effective Writing.

The following are steps you can take without any special tools, without spending any money, and without enormous amounts of time.  Learn to fit at least some of these into your regular study routine.  They will help build your success foundation.

  1. Read opinion pieces in the editorial section of a national national newspaper and summarize in one-three sentences.  (Log in at the same time each day and read at least one editorial.  Gives you practice reading on a variety of topics because people editorialize about every subject under the sun.)  This is not only a great life habit but a tremendously useful way to prepare for standardized tests that involve reading comprehension sections.
  2. Write a letter each week.  Fine to email but may be even better to slow down and handwrite at least once a month.  Include at least 3-5 short paragraphs in each letter you write.  The extra added benefit is that if you actually send these to people, you will build your network (and maybe make your mom smile!).
  3. After reading each page of your homework (your cases in law school, and your textbooks in college), stop and put into your own words what you just read.  (This sounds much more time-consuming than it is.  It may take time at first but you will get practiced at it and be able to do it in less than a minute.)
  4. Look up the meaning of words you don’t understand, or do not see why they are in this particular context.  (Maybe they have more than one meaning.)
  5. Read difficult passages with three senses: eyes, ears and hands.  Do this by touching each word as you read it aloud (or mumble it quietly under your breath if you are studying in the library.).  Law students: this technique is a must for reading statutes.
  6. Exchange your written work regularly with a friend (a first draft of something, a case brief, etc.) and critique each other’s work.  (Of course, be attentive to do this in such a way as not to violate any honor codes about work sharing.  You can even show someone your weekly letter and see if you are conveying your thoughts accurately, or exchange a resume or cover letter, or some other extra-curricular document.)
  7. Read a novel.  Try to read one every month, but at least read one each semester.  (If you don’t like fiction, read non-fiction.)

Bottom line: the more you read, the sharper your understanding of what you read will be. The more you write, the easier it will be for your words to flow in a clear and articulate manner.

Author: Sara J. Berman

Sara J. Berman, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, is a Professor of Law and Assistant Dean at the Touro Law Center. She formerly served as a Director at the Washington DC-based Center for Legal Education Excellence.

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