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jlm11f's avatar

How do I stop continuosly rereading sentences without understanding them?

Asked by jlm11f (12373points) May 26th, 2010

I’ve been studying pretty much at all waking hours for the whole week. But I’m having this problem where while reading a lecture, I keep re-reading sentences several times without actually understanding/registering what it is saying. It doesn’t have to be a hard sentence or even anything complicated. It could be something as simple as “Voluntary contractions reflect a conscious decision to increase motor unit activity while reflexes reflect non-conscious drive” and I’ll still do the same thing.

Eventually I get frustrated enough to pay attention and understand what it is saying. But I don’t want to have to re-read in the first place. Does that make sense?

Any suggestions? I know it’s probably just because I’ve been studying so much, but it’s annoying and a waste of time. And I’m not even tired right now. Please make it stop!

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18 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Read the sentence backwards and then go forwards again.

MissA's avatar

I think you are distracted…simply that.

cheebdragon's avatar

You need to take a break Devi!

Draconess25's avatar

I do the same thing. Just take a break. Go do something else. Rest your eyes.

Also, write it on darker paper. Bright white paper is harder to focus on because it hurts your eyes, especially under fluorescent light.

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MissA's avatar

How the book is written, probably is contrary to the way your brain accepts new information. I find that a lot of books seem to be written either for young children OR they’re written so poorly that nobody would find them a comfortable read.

Jeruba's avatar

Sometimes this happens to me even while I’m reading a novel for enjoyment. Something else is intruding on your attention—can you identify it? Anxiety, thoughts of other content you’re trying to remember, anticipating and rehearsing whatever overall plan or schedule you are carrying out? If you can focus on one thing at a time, it will help.

Or you may have reached the saturation point. Even if you’re tired, your brain may have just shut its intake valve for now. You should do some kind of right-brain activity for a while—something physical, something artistic, something holistic—and let the left-brain traffic jam settle out. In the long run you will probably waste less of your study time that way.

At the sentence level, if I am just not getting something, I break it down grammatically. Others (above) are right that textbook authors are typically not chosen for their facile writing style. I have edited a number of such works myself and struggled hard to open them up for the reader, but there’s only so much you can do with a book that’s already been accepted by the publisher.

”“Voluntary contractions reflect a conscious decision to increase motor unit activity.”
...and (in contrast)...
“Reflexes reflect non-conscious drive.”

That’s a start. “While” isn’t the right conjunction; it’s illogical because it means concurrency, not contrast. Obviously these two types of muscle activity are not happening in the same place at the same time. Your tired brain may be trying to resolve logical problems in the writing while absorbing information delivered in an unsupportive manner.

PacificToast's avatar

Read slowly, connecting each word’s meaning to the next.

reverie's avatar

I think some really good advice and comments have been given above. I would echo what has been said about taking a rest. I find that when I have to study for long periods of time, taking frequent and regular scheduled breaks help me concentrate during the “work” time. For me, continuing to work when I cannot concentrate is frustrating, and ultimately, fruitless.

The one thing that I would add that helps me when I am struggling to concentrate, or to get my head around a particular passage, is to read aloud, and to read aloud slowly. Something about speaking the words, and the natural intonations of the voice, seem help me clarify the meaning of what is being written, and absorb it much more effectively than if I am just reading the words on the page. Sometimes it’s just a case of it making the different clauses and subclauses clear, because you naturally put in pauses and emphasis when you read aloud. For me, it is really effective, and it helps me understand and retain what I am reading. It’s also something that I do whenever I proof-read my own work, because I often don’t absorb everything and notice mistakes when I am just reading off a page or screen.

LeotCol's avatar

I’ve been studying a lot lately too, I had to reread that sentence too. I find that my brain just doesn’t like long sentences. I generally separate them into pieces and say them out loud separately if I’m really tired.

A way to stop yourself having to reread the sentence would be to read a tad slower and deliberately stop for half a second at each new part.

silverfly's avatar

I’ve been reading This book for a couple weeks now and it’s amazing. It teaches you how to read a book with the sole purpose of understanding and gaining knowledge. The title can throw you off. Don’t let it… it’s literally teaches you how to read a book.

Disc2021's avatar

There’s a cognitive reason for this – from what I can remember, your head just needs a break. Try going for a walk/getting fresh air, eat something nutritious, listen to music and lay down for awhile, call a friend and talk for a little or take a short nap.

andreaxjean's avatar

I have the exact same problem, but I’ve had it since I was about 7. It would keep me from doing my homework in grade school because it would just take me too long and I was impatient about it. A decade later, I was admitted to an outpatient hospitalization program because I had been having problems with anxiety and depression and the psychiatrist there determined that I had ADHD. She put me on a medication called Concerta and it seemed to help. However, once I got pregnant with my daughter, I had to stop all of my medication. I haven’t been on the Concerta for about 3 years and I still have a lot of problems with it. I found that reading more slowly and moving my lips while I read will help me comprehend what Im reading better. It doesn’t always work, though, and I occasionally do have to reread things.

I really do recommend talking to someone, whether it’s a therapist or psychiatrist. They can give you pointers on ways to improve your studying progress. Prescribing meds isn’t the only thing doctors are good for, you know. =] Good luck!

lifeflame's avatar

You’re at saturation point. Go take a run around the block—it will help clear your mind.

Then, if you are still stuck, you might find different ways to process the information.
For example, you might draw a diagram or something to explain the relationship of the ideas.
Or you can imagine paraphrasing the idea to a classmate or young child, which will force you to break the concepts down into bite-sized pieces.

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kyraugh's avatar

You may just be bored of what you’re reading and in turn gloss over the text. I do it all the time. If you’re not actually interested in what is being said it is unlikely you’ll retain it.

Candoguy's avatar

I’ve had this problem since I was about 8 years old (probably longer). I first noticed it when I was attempting to read some text in competition with another school girl. She managed to read it faster than I could and I was left feeling a hopeless failure.

I have read very few books in my life because I find reading very hard work. The process just requires so much energy and effort that I become very frustrated and annoyed that I can’t process the text and absorb the meaning very easily.

The paradox is that I’ve always been very good at writing, composition and spelling. I’d love to be able to read easily and finish a book like most other people do.

I’ve learned recently of ADHD in adults and wondered if it applies to me. I was statemented for a form of dyslexia called hyperlexia about 12 years ago, but I’ve had no treatment for it.

Does anyone recognise this or have any ideas?


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