1 Don't Do All of Your Reading You will be assigned a lot of reading at college. Probably more reading than seems humanly possible for any one person to complete. Social science and humanities courses will taunt you with seemingly short academic articles that turn out to be riddled with Byzantine sentence structures and devilishly complicated logic. Science courses will siphon your time, and help you develop a lifelong hatred of bar charts, with a steady stream of ultradense technical material. And just to keep things sporting, professors will periodically slip entire books into the syllabus, often giving you only a week or so to finish them. Sound bleak? It doesn't have to be. All you need remember is one simple rule: Don't do all of your reading. To a hardworking student, ignoring assigned reading probably seems blasphemous. But as unusual as this may sound at first, covering every page of reading listed in a course syllabus is rarely necessary. Here is what you should do instead: For reading that covers the topic of an upcoming lecture, it's often sufficient to just skim the main points ahead of time, and then fill in the gaps during class by taking very good notes. Students are sometimes afraid of skimming, but you shouldn't be. You need to master the skill of covering hundreds of pages of text very quickly. The secret is to read chapter introductions and conclusions carefully, and then skim everything else. Make tick marks next to sentences that catch your attention--this is faster than highlighting. Don't get bogged down trying to understand the significance of every paragraph. Instead, note only the passages that seem to obviously support the thesis. You will definitely miss some key points, but your professor won't. So pay attention in class when the work is discussed, and you will pick up the arguments that you overlooked. Come exam time, your lecture notes, plus a review of the sentences you marked, will bring you up to speed on the material. If there is a particular assignment that was not covered in class, but you know that it will be part of an upcoming exam, skim over it more carefully. If you still feel shaky on the topic, go to office hours. Discuss with your professor the conclusions of the reading. Take good notes. This combination of careful skimming and a good record of the professor's thoughts on what's important is a very effective way to prepare material for testing. When multiple books are assigned as background for a paper, find out early exactly what your paper topic will be, and read only the material you need to develop your specific thesis. Skip optional readings. With all due respect to your professors, there are better uses for your limited time. For science courses, you will typically be assigned one or two chapters of dense technical material to review for each class. These assignments almost always cover the exact same topics that the professor will detail in lecture. Skim these chapters quickly so you know what to expect, but put the bulk of your energy into concentrating in class. Sciences courses don't test you on your reading. They test you on the concepts taught in the classroom. Your goal as a science student should be to come away from each lecture understanding what was covered, and feel comfortable about applying it. If you find yourself falling behind the professor's chalkboard heroics, ramp up the amount of preparatory reading you are doing until you are able to comfortably follow along. In general, reading in science courses should consume very little of your time. Put your attention where it matters: class lectures and homework problems. This approach to completing class work is admittedly an acquired skill. At first you should err on the side of caution, doing as much reading as possible. But as you gain a feel for your professors, and the structure of your courses, you can begin to back off on your assigned readinNewport, Cal is the author of 'How To Win At College Simple Rules For Success From Star Students', published 2005 under ISBN 9780767917872 and ISBN 0767917871.