How to improve your reading skills from home in Hong Kong

Updated: May 4


Improving your reading skills before exams is crucial for all ages. This is especially the case if you or your child have an exam that tests reading skills such as the Cambridge YLE exams, KET, PET, SAT, GRE or tests for adults such as TOEFL and IELTS. Having great reading skills is not just important when learning a new language such as English or Chinese, but also for science and humanities subjects. Learning these reading skills is easy and the skills will last you a lifetime. For this reason, tutors at My Intelligent Tutor teach these skills to young learners and adults alike. In this reading skills guide, MyIT tutor Adam Hare advises that in reading for the greatest benefit you should follow this process. Try it!


What is the best process for improving reading skills?.


1. break the text down into manageable sections

2. identify key points from the text

3. think up and write questions on them to ask yourself

4. write the information from the text as the answers

5. read through your questions and attempt to say the answer to each question out loud

6. try to teach someone else what you know


Alexander Pope, the early C18th English poet had some fine thoughts on the importance of learning a lot:


A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Why learning reading skills is important


Given how much knowledge increases in the C21st (at a conservative estimate it doubles every year), this is a challenge we need a great deal of expertise for. Aside from counselling for our fears of feeling stupid (Duh! You didn't know?)😊 we do need to increase our skills for reading efficiently.


When we read, it can be difficult to recall the last paragraph of information clearly, but luckily some strategies can help us all, and over the next three entries (starting right here) I will share some that I find useful.

Woman thinking about reading skills

Reading skills and memory myths

Let’s start with removing some myths about eidetic and photographic memory. You may think that a reasonable number of people have them, but they don’t. Research concludes that eidetic memory, or the ability to recall something for a few minutes after seeing it (yes, just a few minutes) is so rare you may well regard it as non-existent for adults, though it is more common when you are a child (2 to 10 %).


Photographic memory (long term perfect memory) is extremely rare. Many talents attributed to photographic memory (recall of a picture, perfect spelling…) have been proved to be related to good strategies in learning, not to a photographic memory.


Though learning strategies may sometimes be time-consuming, this will be time well spent, particularly should you find yourself revising for something important such as a presentation or an exam. My photographic memory is clearly marvellous. (I had to go back and double-check my spelling and definitions of memory by looking them up.)


Reading Skill 1: Breaking the text down into manageable sections

To fully learn and memorise text, or key information from a text, the first thing to do is to break it down into manageable sections. You will find which sizes of sections work best for you. Maybe take around two hundred words to work with and see how you get on!


Reading Skill 2: Identifying Key points from the text

The second part of the process is to identify key points from the text. Read the text quickly to determine what the main argument or point of the text is. What is the author trying to say? What conclusions do they come to? I good way of doing this is to read the first and last paragraphs where the writer will introduce and reinforce their key points. This helps you to understand the context of the piece of writing.


Reading Skill 3: Think up and write questions on them to ask yourself

The third part of the process is to think of questions that you think the text may answer. Write these down on a piece of paper. For example, if you were following this process on another one of our articles such as 'Why Biologically you cant pick up reading' You may come up with questions such as 'How do we learn to recognise words?' If you are taking an exam, this point is a great time to re-read the questions!


Reading Skill 4: Write the information from the text as the answers

(and then forgetting where you put the question pile) 😊Re-read the text and try to answer the questions, You can either take notes or write out your answers in full if you want a bit of extra writing practice!


Reading Skill 5: Read through your questions and attempt to say the answer to each question out loud

When you have your questions and answers written and heaped into two stacks, start by reading through your questions and attempting to say the answer to each question out loud. As with anything, the more times you do this, the stronger your neural pathways will become as the key points become stable parts of your semantic memory. Also, remember to look up any unfamiliar words, much better than guessing and hoping. 😊

You will get to know which types of questions best help you to remember the answers.


When you are ready, move on to the next section of text to learn and begin the same process, adapting slightly to use any variations in learning that you’ve found most useful from the section before.


At regular intervals, revise by going through question cards from the previous section/s. This should be a useful way to start cementing the information from the text (as the answers) into your brain.


Sure, cramming may be essential in some cases, but will most likely lead to a lot of information being lost very soon after the test or exam you’re cramming information for, so it is better to study over longer periods, and in shorter individual durations. Ideally, we want to carry the information we learn with us like a teacher who wants to teach it, not like a student who only wants it for the exams.

You want to aim to read your notes more times than the text. Either read them aloud or write them down if that helps.


Reading Skill 6: Try to teach someone else what you know

(Assuming you have the luxury of someone who might listen!) It has been said in that on average, we may retain around 10% of what we read and around 90% of what we teach others. Those percentages have been both accepted and refuted of course, so again – find what works best for you.


I studied Rachel Adragna’s “Be Your Own Teacher: How to Study a Textbook” and tried to recall as much information as I had learned and remembered from her for this blog post. I did not use the question and answer technique, however, so I may well have missed some key information. I should probably learn not to cram for a blog when I had more than enough time to study more efficiently 😊

Now… where were we? Oh yeah, so try this idea out next time you need to recall information from text. Tailor the strategy to your own benefit and best of luck!


Reading Skills Process recap:


1. break the text down into manageable sections

2. identify key points from the text

3. think up and write questions on them to ask yourself

4. write the information from the text as the answers

5. read through your questions and attempt to say the answer to each question out loud

6. try to teach someone else what you know


How can I learn more about improving my reading skills?


Below are some great resources on how to improve your reading skills

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/memory/difference-between-eidetic-memory-and-photographic-memory/ https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/medu.13813 https://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/2/12-1


If you are a tutor or teacher check out the courses My Intelligent Tutor's parent company Train The Teacher which has great online courses for improving your skills and getting certified as a tutor or teacher.


If you are a parent and want your child to improve on their learning skills you can also read some of our other articles written by subject expert tutors in Hong Kong:

What do parents need to know about teaching Phonics?

How important is listening as a skill? Very!

Want to develop better writing skills?

How to help your student's fluency


How can I get a tutor in Hong Kong to help improve my reading skills?

At My Intelligent Tutor, we have exceptional tutors across a library of subjects. Our tutors are trained in helping you or your child improve learning skills and subject knowledge across all the subjects they study in Hong Kong and also for international exams such as the Cambridge YLE exams, KET, PET, SAT, GRE or tests for adults such as TEOFL and IELTS and many more. Contact us and let us know what you need help with either at your home or online:





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