If you are a student like me, then you probably have a lot of material to read on a weekly basis. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if your assigned reading involved mindless material that you wouldn’t be tested on.
But here’s the reality- you have a lot to read, and you have to remember what you read- because the test is coming. Let me introduce you to a game-changer in the world of student success: summarize what you read. Summarization is a great form of note taking.
If you aren’t taking some form of notes when you read, you should really consider starting, and here’s why: taking notes is an automatic 20-25 percent retention boosting exercise. That’s like going from a C to an A. Additionally, according to a study conducted by Robert J. Marzano, summarizing strategies on average increase a student’s ability to understand content by 19 percent.
Here are three great benefits of summarizing what you read.
1. Summarizing ensures you are producing something—the key to productive study sessions
The key to any successful study session is producing something. You haven’t really studied if you haven’t produced notes, or a chart, or flashcards, or a timeline…anything like that. When you summarize what you read, you are actively engaging the material you are reading.
While underlining and highlighting words are popular methods, they are not very successful at helping students retain information (we’ve talked about this here). Summarizing will ensure that you have had a productive and successful study session.
2. Summarizing helps you find the main points and key details
Summarizing is like panning for gold—it helps you look for and find the main points and key details in every paragraph. Effective learning is all about identifying and understanding main points and key details. Your summary statements should look like gold- main points, key details, and nothing else.
So, how do you summarize? My suggestion is for every section or chapter (depending on the type of book) you read, write 2-3 bullet point statements that communicate what the author is saying.
3. Summarizing saves time during test review sessions
One of the biggest wastes of time when reviewing for a test is trying to skim back through all the chapters you read looking for something that you think you might be tested on…it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack- it almost never happens. Summarizing cuts out this unnecessary step. Furthermore, you will remember more and learn more effectively when you put information into your own words—especially if the test format is short answer or essay. You can say a whole lot more in your own words than you can in someone else’s words.
There are a ton of different strategies you can use for summarization. The important thing is that you start incorporating this highly effective skill into your study sessions. Your grades will thank you.