April Merritt by April Merritt

Reading ComprehensionAre you reading and reading and reading your materials but they just aren’t sinking in? Have you read that one chapter so many times you’re starting to see it when you sleep? Does it seem like no matter how hard you try you just can’t get the information to stick?

So…how’s your reading comprehension? Are you an active reader? Or a passive one? The purpose of reading is to connect the ideas on the page to what you already know. Candidates with a history in exercise science may find the material in the manual challenging but familiar. However, if you are starting fresh and don’t know much about your subject, then pouring words of text into your mind is like pouring water into your hand – you don’t retain much.

When you are preparing for the ACE Certification Exam, there are two main issues. The first is the sheer volume of necessary reading (yes, Personal Trainer materials, I’m looking at you). The second issue is the ability to not only read it all, but also to comprehend and digest most of it meaningfully.

So how do you improve your reading comprehension? How do you help the information you read stick in your head? Reading comprehension requires participation (beyond looking at the words), motivation, concentration, and good study techniques. Below are a few techniques you might consider…

  • Know how the information is structured, especially on a chapter or paragraph level. An earlier post about reading references this as well. Remember that the first sentence of a paragraph or section can provide an overview of what that section is about.
  • Pay attention to supporting clues. Was there a reference to a table or chart in that paragraph you just read? Well then, head on over and take a look at that table. Chances are the author is using it to illustrate a point. Also, seeing the information in another form (illustration versus text) can increase comprehension.
  • Highlight, review and summarize important ideas. But….don’t highlight everything! Doing this makes your book a sea of color and your eyes can’t figure out what to focus on. Concentrate on key words and phrases to draw your attention to that area. Remember that with ACE we stress understanding and application of information rather than rote memorization.
  • Read aloud to yourself. Although it is faster to form words in your mind rather than on your lips, it can help to ‘hear’ the information as well as read it. Many people  are geared towards auditory learning. Reading aloud uses both your auditory and visual learning styles.
  • Interrogate your text. Ask questions such as ‘what is the main idea?’ ‘How does that diagram relate to this text?’ ‘Why is this section in bold/italics?’ ‘How does this section relate to the previous one?’ This is critical thinking and it can be incredibly helpful in making you stop and consider the text rather than just speeding through and attempting to memorize.
  • Tell the information to someone else. This is one of the tried and true methods of determining how well you know the information – can you explain it to someone else? Especially someone who hasn’t studied the material?

Preparing for your ACE Certification Exam requires a lot of reading. And that reading requires active participation. Just scanning through the material or reading on auto pilot isn’t going to help your comprehension. Become an active reader. Work at increasing your reading comprehension so you can spend less time reading and more time understanding.