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3.4 Time chunks

Apart from sheer speed, there is the question of how to parcel out your study time. With a two-page article you would assume a single study session, but a chapter of a book might be spread over several sessions, depending on the content and on your own time constraints.

This is a message from a student to her online tutorial group in the second week of a course. Three hours is a substantial chunk of serious reading and it seems that she has taken in as much as she can for the time being. She might as well stop worrying and switch to something else, such as planning her assignment, or sorting her notes. Or she could take a complete break and come back to the chapter later in the day. I would guess that this student's studies went well – firstly, because she is actively engaging with the study materials, and secondly, because she is thinking about her study strategy and her use of time.

It is important to recognise that your span of concentration is limited. You can't learn intensively hour after hour, so it is better to divide your reading time into several shorter sessions than a few longer ones. However if your reading sessions are too short, you don't get properly into the frame of thinking before breaking off again. You might find two hours a reasonable span for a study session after a day of work. Or you might find that after an hour of intensive concentration you need to take a short break, or switch to another task.

Reading habits are very personal, take time to reflect on your own. Practise setting targets of various numbers of pages to see what works best for you ithin the contours of your life.

Key points

There is no ideal reading speed. Skill in reading slowly is just as important as skill in reading quickly. To manage your reading effectively you need to:

  • pitch your reading speed according to your purpose and the degree of challenge presented by the text;

  • set yourself targets (number of pages per session);

  • monitor your progress and keep adjusting your strategy.


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