Reading Comprehension Exercises for Adults

by Sarah Adams

The ability to recall and understand the words of a text after reading them is paramount to the broadening of one's knowledge base. After all, the point of reading is to obtain meaningful information that you can then make use of. Reading comprehension skills can be improved upon whether you are in preschool or retirement. Three exercises for improving reading comprehension for adults follow.

Improve Vocabulary

Vocabulary can be essential to reading comprehension. For example, if you are attempting to read a text dealing with the subject of tax law, and you have little to no background knowledge on the subject, there will be numerous terms within the text that will be unfamiliar to you, making comprehension nearly impossible.In a situation like the above example, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with as many of the common terms used in the subject field as you can prior to reading. This way when you read you don't feel like you're trying to read a text written in a foreign language.At other times, your reading material may be more familiar, containing just a few unfamiliar words. In these instances, write down the new words, look up their meanings and then compare the dictionary definition to the contextual clues in order to fully understand the terms and their use in the text.

Take Notes

While reading a text, highlight key concepts or words or jot down anything you are sure you will want to remember. Writing down questions the text arouses in your mind is a good idea as well. When you are finished reading, if the questions remain unanswered, you can do further research. This will help to make the experience of reading a particular text worth your while.Writing things down helps your brain remember by repeating information, but also processing it in a different way, thus giving you multiple connections to the information. If you don't trust your memory, writing down key concepts or summaries of the information is a good idea so you have a quick reference to the most pertinent information and don't have to read the entire text again.


The last reading comprehension exercise is a multifaceted approach that was developed by educational psychologist Francis Pleasant Robinson in 1946. The acronym SQ3R stands for: survey, question, read, recite and review.

The first part of this approach is done prior to reading the text. Survey the text before reading by scanning through the table of contents or chapter titles, looking for and reading any introductory sections or summaries, and studying any graphics found throughout the text. Doing this can give you an idea of the main subjects before reading and help make sense of the details.

The Q of SQ3R also comes in the pre-reading stage. Form questions that address who, what, when, where, how and why by using the information gathered during the survey step.

The next step is the first R: reading. While you read the text, look for the answers to the questions you formed during your initial survey of the text. The second R is done during the active reading stage as well. Stop to recite the information you've just read periodically. The end of a chapter or section is a good time to stop and recite. If there is an important concept within a chapter, stop after the paragraph and recite the information.Finally, when the text has been read entirely, review the information. Review should come soon after reading to be most effective, and periodically thereafter to keep it fresh and affixed in your mind.