Speed Reading Computer Books (and other large text books)

How to tackle reading those huge computer books

Most computer certification books do a good job of covering the majority of exam objectives for their respective topic, but in many cases there are subjects that aren't covered adequately or are even, in some cases, missing altogether. So before you start, make sure you have an up-to-date list of the exam objectives that you will be tested on and read through them thoroughly so you know what you're expected to know.

When you do sit down to prepare for the exam, try these suggestions to get the most from your reading time:
  • Spend some time reading the chapter headings and sub-headings from the index page. Get familiar with the framework of the book, how the book is organized and broken down into its sub-sections, and the overall feel of the book.

  • Skim the book. What is meant by skimming is to casually read over each page without trying to remember the material. Read a sentence here, a sentence there, look at a diagram here, a diagram there. Look for new terminology that you haven't come across before and look them up, look at diagrams and graphs and get a feel for the topic. This will help you get a feel for the new terminology before you have to really study the concepts, as well as help you ascertain the sequence within the book that these new concepts are introduced. Skimming will also help you to locate specific charts, diagrams or tables later on. Surprisingly, even by skimming, it's possible to absorb quite a lot of information in this way.

    (If you own the book, don't be afraid to take to it with a marker pen while you skim. Make notes, cross out sections that you're familiar with, expand any acronyms that you don't readily know and put into your own words concepts that you feel you need to understand a bit better. If you like to keep your books in pristine condition remember that in many cases the book will cost less than the price of the exam so it'll be cheaper to buy another, fresh, book than to have to re-take the exam. Use the book for what it was intended to do - help you pass your exam).

  • After you have skimmed the book, read the entire book through superficially. Only concentrate on the sections of the book that you already understand or partially understand, and completely skip over entries in the book that you don't. This includes entire pages, paragraphs, diagrams etc. Anything that you come across that you don't fully understand, skip it. Even if it means skipping more than 50% of the book, it doesn't matter. This is just the first reading - so don't get swamped trying to take in something that you don't understand. That can come later.

    This is a good time to highlight with a coloured marker any sections that are specifically mentioned in the exam objectives. This will help you concentrate on those areas at the next reading.

  • Lastly, read the book again and this time study the material. This will essentially be the third time that you've looked at the book, and a lot of the content, the structure and the feel of the book will be familiar to you. You should be able to tackle the entire book much easier.

    Don't feel that you have to read the book in a linear fashion either. Start with areas that you're more comfortable with and progressively tackle the harder areas as you move forward and backward through the book.