3.2 Learning to read in different ways

Reading will have played an important part in your learning ever since you could read, and probably you are a competent reader. However, learning at university requires a different approach to reading. Listen to what University of Auckland students say about the changes they've experienced.

Theodore Macdonald, BFA (Hons), 4th year
The reading experience at university is far different from that of high school because it’s really more about finding the right information. I really had to learn to skim read when I got to university, and the first assignment I did for Critical Studies in year one, I read five different books on the artist Richard Prince. Now I would know that really I should read the first section of five books and work out which one was actually relevant to what I was trying to do.

Olivia Zambuto, BA (Political Sciences)/LLB, 3rd year
At high school, we would occasionally have a small reading to do, maybe three pages, and it was really small. Whereas at uni they are a lot longer and you can get quite lost in them, so you kind of have to stay focused.

Joseph Moukhtar, BSc (Physiology), 2nd year
In high school you’re often prescribed a textbook that is for the course, it’ll be by CIE, it’ll be by NCEA, by CIE, and that will have all the information you need, you won’t have to read any further into it. Whereas with university, the textbooks are often prescribed and they’re not, they’re not made for the course, they’re, they’re generic textbooks. So there is going to be a lot of information that’s not relevant, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of information that is relevant. So it’s important to you know kind of discern between those two and just figure out the relevant points and write those down, and understand them and grain them to your memory.

James Hucklesby, BSc (Biomedical Science), 3rd year
I think the sources you’re reading change as well. Once you get to university, you’ve got to go to probably the library database, dig through three or four different journals, you know. So you’re digging through journal articles, rather than digging through Google. And the difference is journal articles are phrased very differently. They’re evidence based, not concept based. And that’s something you’ve really got to learn, and it takes a lot of reading to get used to it.

Josh Jeffrey, BEd (Teaching), 3rd year
The biggest difference to reading compared to high school is how much time it takes up, that if you’re given a short section of text at high school you can probably hammer through it in fifteen minutes and not have to worry, and you can’t do that at university, that you spend almost as much time thinking as you do reading, that you do have to take it slowly and work out your own opinion and how the reading might be changing that or how you might respond to that reading.

Video under copyright. © The University of Auckland 2017. All rights reserved. 

At school, probably your teachers chose your readings, and your research was based on a limited selection of materials. In contrast, at university you'll engage with a broader range of sources and make use of electronic databases and academic journals to find information for your assignments and lectures.

You will likely experience an increase in reading load and complexity of readings. Therefore, while your approach to reading may have worked for you so far, you'll probably need to invest some time to boost your reading skills to meet the requirements of your courses.

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