23 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension for Adults | Iris Reading
23 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension for Adults

23 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension for Adults

23 Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension for Adults

Reading comprehension consists of understanding textual and subtextual meaning. By active reading, pacing yourself, discussing the text, and taking practice quizzes, adults can improve their reading comprehension.

When reading a text, your brain must process the literal words and their relationship.

While this may seem like the barest minimum, it isn’t easy for some adults. Poor reading comprehension is a severe problem with ripple effects in an adult’s life. 

When adults cannot read, they cannot teach their children to read. And this affects their children’s performance in class. 

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), children whose parents with low literacy skills are 72% more likely to be poor readers.  

Poor reading comprehension can also lead to low income and less full-time employment. Only 35% of low literacy adults are employed full-time.  

Additionally, adults with below-basic literacy skills earn $28,000 less than adults with proficient skills

In this article, you’ll learn 23 tips to improve your reading comprehension as an adult. 

But first, let’s bust a myth:

Can you improve your reading comprehension as an adult?

It is possible to improve reading comprehension as an adult if you follow the proper steps. 

Some adults develop poor reading comprehension from a young age. This may be due to being trained by illiterate parents or lacking access to qualitative education. 

Additionally, medical conditions associated with age, like dyslexia or difficulty with vision, hearing, or speech, can cause poor comprehension in adults. 

On the other hand, adults can also have poor reading comprehension for nonmedical reasons. This is common in adults with the habit of cramming or lacking interest in creative reading. 

Despite these, adults can improve their reading comprehension with the proper training. 

Moreover, some adults perform as excellently as children when mastering effective reading because adults have more general knowledge to apply to a particular situation in a book. 

Also, adults who want to advance their careers with effective reading habits often concentrate more.  

Thus, adults can improve their reading comprehension despite age decline with regular practice and effective reading comprehension tips.  

23 tips for adults to improve comprehension

Part 1: Things to do before you start reading

Tip 1: Set a goal

If you seriously want to improve your reading comprehension, you must treat reading as an exercise. Thus, it would be best to design a strategy to keep account of your progress. 

A great way to achieve that is by deciding what to read and how. Possibly, you can even set a specific location for reading. 

You want to read where there is less distraction so you can make the most of your time. 

That doesn’t mean that you can’t read at other times or places. However, it is easy to stay consistent and form a reading habit when setting a specific reading time and locale. 

Tip 2: Decide which medium of reading works for you

You will find print and digital versions of any material you wish to practice effective reading. It is crucial to determine the reading medium that best suits your needs.

Let’s say you prefer to read printed documents, but you can only find the digital version of the document. You can download and print it out so you can read comfortably. 

But if the digital version is not available for print and you have to read on screen, prioritize reading breaks to reduce headaches or switch between screen types (mobile or desktop). 

Tip 3: Know your purpose

Students read because their professor said that. But as an adult, there’s something else here. Can you list what you want to achieve during the reading exercise? 

For example, reading for a multichoice exam requires much more thorough attention to detail and definition of terms and concepts than preparation to talk about or write an essay. 

Think of the purpose of your study and the knowledge needed after reading. Then, keep that goal in mind when reading.

Part 2: Things to do when you read

Now that you know your goal, purpose, and best reading medium, it’s time to start reading deliberately to improve comprehension in those areas. 

Tip 4: Understand and reevaluate how you’re currently reading

If you want to improve reading comprehension, you must first understand how you read. 

Start with identifying excerpts of texts with which you feel unable to comprehend in:

  • textbooks
  • essays
  • novels
  • news articles, etc. 

After that, read them the way you usually would.

Watch if your focus and comprehension begin to flag. If your comprehension or concentration lags over time, start gaining strength.

Tip 5: Preview the text

First, take the text by highlighting headings, diagrams, tables, pictures highlighting bold words, a summary, or a key question. 

Next, read the introduction and conclusion and gather the main concepts. 

Finally, preview – predict the topic for each part.

Tip 6: Read regularly

Adults should read every day to improve their reading comprehension. 

Regular reading will keep your mind active and help you retain what you are reading. By reading at least 15 minutes a day, you will accelerate your reading gains. 

Tip 7: Come up with questions about the text you are reading

Asking a question about what you are reading can increase reading comprehension. This allows you to understand the entire text in its entirety and explore themes, motifs, and other components that you would otherwise skim through. 

Let’s say you’re reading a novel; you should be able to answer the following questions: 

  • What is your reason for reading this novel? 
  • How does a relationship exist between the two characters? 
  • Can you tell the story of the characters that live in the book? 
  • Are there themes that appear regularly in books? 
  • What is the meaning of the themes?

Answering these questions helps develop a deeper understanding of the novel and comprehend the sentences faster. 

Tip 8: Pace yourself

Pacing yourself can be a helpful method in helping you develop reading comprehension skills. These things are true, especially when reading a book that you find very difficult. 

Create a daily plan to accomplish it. For example, if you read three chapters a night, you might complete the book in 2 or 3 days. It helps you achieve your objectives as it gives you time for processing what the reading describes.

Tip 9: Use context clues

Using context clues helps to understand what the text says. Context clues are usually found within phrases around an unknown word. 

For a good context clue, you can identify a particular idea of a sentence and identify the main ideas. 

You could also look at nearby words – antonymous or synonyms.

Tip 10: Look for the main idea

The idea of an article helps determine how important the article is. Pause each paragraph and try to understand what’s important to you. 

Secondly, try putting the idea in a simple word to understand it more clearly.

Tip 11: Break up the reading into smaller sections

If you read a more complex text, divide it into smaller segments for easy access. 

Ideally, you could read two paragraphs at once but take pauses before you read what you just saw. 

Breaking it up can ease the stress you have on the page and help you understand.

Tip 12: Practice active reading

Adults should regularly practice active reading, which means asking questions or coming up with questions after reading something.

Active reading requires you to ask questions, predict, summarize, and state the main idea as you read.

In addition, an active reading can help increase your memory for what was read and make connections between ideas that may have been missed or ignored. 

Tip 13: Self-monitor

It’ll only take one person to ensure that you stay engaged when reading. For example, suppose your mind keeps reminding you of the following food and the next episode of your Netflix series. In that case, you’re probably not focusing enough. 

If your mind wanders, pause to think about what you need now. Need some break? Does the background noise cause any distraction? How about changes to the environment? 

Perhaps you need to fulfill an immediate need and continue later. 

Practicing self-monitoring when you read helps you keep a clear headspace and stay focused. 

Tip 14: Annotate

Do you use highlighters? It would help if you took notes when reading. But using a highlighter effectively is more than just “highlighting.”

You need to create a key to indicate a key concept or point in a text. This can be:

  • a list of important information
  • unfamiliar words / unrecognized information
  • Important words and phrases.

Tag each of these critical points with a specific highlighting color. 

This helps you process what you are reading. It also makes you think about the text’s main ideas, which improves your comprehension.

Tip 15: Take practice quizzes

Practice quizzes help you learn from your mistakes and improve on future questions. As a result, you will retain the information better and improve reading comprehension.

Tip 16: Skim or read upcoming sections of the text

Skimming is a glance through the material to get an idea of what it’s all about. This is particularly helpful when you find a text complex and want to quickly understand what it’s all about. 

That way, you can re-read with the basic understanding of the text at the back of your mind. Thus, comprehension is easier. 

Tip 17: Stop when you get confused and try to summarize what you just read

During your study, keep your focus on your work when it’s difficult for you to focus. Let’s not wait. Now summarize what you understand before a moment of confusion.

Ask yourself, what are some key points? Summarize them. 

Now, continue reading with a summary in mind and stop repeating it as the article continues.

Tip 18: Discuss the text with a friend (even an imaginary friend)

Sometimes talking about what you have learned so far about text might be helpful. Tell someone that hasn’t read the text you’ve written or spoken about. 

If someone told you about it, they would probably understand more. Even if nobody was present in the room, teaching or talking about something to yourself helps you understand it better. 

Software engineers call such techniques “rubber duck debugging .”It’s like explaining a complex sentence to a rubber duck. 

Tip 19: If you’re struggling, try reading aloud

Sometimes our brains may become blocked, thus preventing us from reading for any other reason. Reading these problematic passages aloud can sometimes help circumvent this block and assist in forming an image of what the text has been trying to convey.

Part 3: Things to do after reading

Reading text shouldn’t stop at chapter end or when your time ticks off. Having a clear after-read strategy can improve retention and comprehension. 

Take a look at these strategies:

Tip 20: Check in with yourself

If you just finished reading a text, you should be sure that you understood what you had read. 

This metacognitive skill is one of the toughest to train, as you may be unsure that you retain what you read. 

Try relating the subject to a real-life example by referencing information and sharing your thoughts with others. You can also set up a mock quiz and score yourself. 

Tip 21: Write a summary of what you read

If you can confidently write a summary of what you’ve read, that means you seriously understood it. Summarizing involves deciding the importance of the text and then writing your own words. 

After taking a mock quiz, applying this technique will have a more significant effect. It just feels different when you pick up the pen to pour out your understanding of a concept. 

Tip 22: Integrate previous knowledge

Consider how the readings relate to different concepts. Next, describe a personal experience and secondhand information about this subject. Finally, list what you need to know on your own about your text.

Tip 23: Investigate further

If information remains ambiguous, find other resources on that subject, including videos or a reliable online study guide. 

That way, you will discover new information that will aid your comprehension. 


Read regularly, read various materials, underline and annotate as you read, practice active reading, and take practice quizzes. 

By following all these steps, adults can become better readers, making learning new information more manageable. 

Check out our productivity course if you want to learn super-fast. It helps you practice these tips plus advanced reading comprehension strategies.

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