Bookmark This Page

HomeHome SitemapSitemap Contact usContacts

Your Reading Comprehension, Exam Results, and Jigsaw Puzzles

One of the most powerful things you can do to get ahead in your academic life and to dramatically improve your exam results is to increase your reading comprehension and reading speed. In Japan, reading is very popular. If you were to ask any student her hobbies, chances are great that reading would be listed among them. Because of the orthography of the Japanese language, reading Japanese requires a lot of mental gymnastics on the part of the reader, and yet, or perhaps in part because of the difficulty, reading remains extremely popular. In fact you could walk into practically any bookstore and find most of the worldís best-selling books available in Japanese translation.

Itís surprising to hear reports of few people in North America are passionate readers these days, but when I hear from clients about how they approach reading it starts to make more sense. ĎWhy is that?í you may be wondering. Itís because most people set themselves up for failure in their reading by reading something straight through from top to bottom. This method is devastating to reading comprehension and your ability to remember what you read.

With a short article like this, you may be able to get away with it. However, for longer passages, technical material or works that are written using difficult linguistic structures and challenging vocabulary, youíll want to use much more powerful techniques that use the power of your other-than-conscious mind. In doing so you will dramatically increase your reading comprehension, your reading speed, and your ability to recall the information when you need it.

The secret is to read the same way you would do a jigsaw puzzle. If you have good jigsaw puzzle technique, you can relax and you can build sections very easily. You pick up a piece and immediately know where it goes. You pick up another, and put it right in its place. As you gently glide your hand over the pieces the puzzle almost seems to put itself together. You arenít even really thinking about it consciously. Youíre just able to see how it all fits together. Itís fast, itís gentle, itís easy, and itís fun. Hopefully you know what Iím talking about. If this hasnít been your experience with puzzles up to now, then youíre in luck because Iíll tell you exactly how to do it.

Before you even open the puzzle box, you have a photo of the completed design on the box. That is your overview. That is what all the little pieces create when you put them together.

Your next step is to build the frame. Your frame gives it a structure and defines the scope of the puzzle. The way you do this is the key to the entire puzzle. If you are great at jigsaw puzzles, then you know that while you are sorting for edge pieces, you want to look at every single piece of the puzzle. If you try to do this by stirring pieces in the box, youíll have a mess and it helps you very little.

What you want to do it is to take a small handful of pieces, take out the edge pieces, look quickly at the small handful of pieces trusting that you will remember them, and put them in the other half of the box. Continue this until you have gone through all the pieces. Your frame will practically put itself together.

Your next step is to group similar patterns together for different sections of the puzzle. By looking at the pieces one by one when separating for the frame, you have given that essential information to your other-than-conscious mind. That means that your OTC mind is already at work figuring out how the pieces go together. When you gather pieces of similar patterns, you will very quickly see how the pieces fit together. It will seem like youíre not even really doing anything. You just somehow know which pieces go together. Before you know it, you have the entire puzzle completed.

Reading works the same way. The first thing you want is an overview of the work. Quickly read the introduction and the conclusion. What is the book or report? Who created it? Why? When? Why is it significant? What do you hope to gain from reading it?

Next you want to build your frame. Quickly flip through the work, taking note of chapters, headings, sub headings, graphics, and any terms that for whatever catch your eye. Make use of any additional materials that your professor or teacher has given you to help you formulate questions you hope to answer by reading. Trust that by flipping through the material quickly, and by asking yourself questions that you hope to answer, you are setting up your OTC mind to take in all the important information and get answers for you.

The next part is just like assembling the different parts of the puzzle. As you go through each section or chapter, go through it quickly looking for the answers to your questions. If you feel yourself getting bogged down, like trying the same puzzle piece into several different spaces, you need to note the page and move on. Keep yourself moving quickly through the reading, just as when you are doing a puzzle. If you go to slowly, you are likely to get bored and not pay attention to what you are reading, which is horrible for both comprehension and recall. Keep it moving fast and fun and you will dramatically increase your reading comprehension and your ability to recall what you read. When you are back into the flow of gathering information you can go back to the section that was challenging before.

So the next time you have something to read, treat it like a master of jigsaw puzzles approaches a new puzzle, and get ready to be amazed at how dramatically you can improve your reading speed, your reading comprehension, and how this one change helps you achieve academically and positively impacts your exam results.

Hereís to your success!

Teresa Bolen is a teacher at Todaiji Academy, one of the top 5 schools in Japan, and the author of Master Plan to Master Exams: How to Discover Your Hidden Abilities to Create the Success You Desire. You can get her FREE ĎAcademic Excellence Reportí at

Copyright 2007 by Teresa Bolen. All Rights Reserved.