Three Types of Questions to Ask Yourself to Build Reading Comprehension

by Sara Vazquez Shaw

What you read is only as useful as what you understand and retain. Effective readers develop a set of questions to be answered during the reading. While they read, they note which of those inquiries are answered and keep an eye out for the unexpected.

After reading, additional questions are formulated, but this time it is to ensure complete comprehension. Think of this as a "mini-review" of the salient points. Take a look at the following suggestions to help you formulate your pre-, mid-, and post-reading questions to increase comprehension.

1. Pre-Reading Questions

Before tackling a reading assignment, take a look at the material. Anticipate what you are supposed to learn. Review any tables of contents or headings within a chapter to get an idea of what is to come. If you have a syllabus or study guide, use it to predict what the assignment is intended to teach you. Think about your own experiences or previous studies to prepare you for what you are about to read.

Make a list of anticipatory questions so that you will have a structured approach to the reading. List both what you expect to learn and what you are interested in exploring further. Then, begin reading the assignment with the questions in mind, mining the assignment for the answers. Keep the list near you as you read, and jot down notes if you wish. Make your first read-through a sort of hunt to keep your mind active.

2. Mid-Reading Questions

Keep the list of pre-reading questions handy so you can add more questions as you read. Anything that is unclear or incompletely answered should be jotted down for review later. While reading, keep looking for clues from the author to answer your pre-reading questions.

As you continue to read, note connections with your previous knowledge. Pause occasionally to examine the connections made. Then, write down any questions you need to explore more to solidify your understanding.

3. Post-Reading Questions

Once the assignment has been read through at least once, review the pre- and mid-reading questions you generated. Test your comprehension of the material by attempting to answer the questions you recorded. If there are parts of the text you have not understood, return to those parts and reread them.

Afterwards, spend some time sketching out the answers to post-reading questions. Here are some examples:

•What was the main idea of the reading in your own words? 

•What details support your understanding of the main idea?

•Are there conflicting views discussed by the author or of which you have independent knowledge? What is your opinion of these views? 

•Have you learned something you did not know before, or did the assignment simply reinforce prior knowledge?

•What additional information do you need to have a solid understanding of the material?

Spend the last bit of your reading time searching for elusive answers within the text. If you cannot answer all your questions, take initiative. Conduct additional research or follow up with your instructor. This thorough approach will lead to increased reading comprehension.