Reading Under Pressure

Most students face the problem of not having enough time to complete all of their assigned reading. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry. Remember that you’re in graduate school—it’s supposed to be hard. Follow these suggestions to sort through a lot of material in a short time period:


  • Find out what material is most important to your professor and your class. Ask! Are you going to be tested on a particular book? Don’t let it be the last one you read.Reading and Time Management

  • Decide what material is most important to you personally. What interests you? What will be useful to you in your ministry?
  • Determine what material is less important. Does a book provide background information with which your professor simply wants you to be familiar? You may just want to skim through it. Do two sources cover the same material? Skim one.

  • Prioritize the more important material over what is less important. Skim less important material to allow yourself time to read important sources more carefully.
  • Before you read any source, spend several minutes flipping through it to familiarize yourself with what you are reading.
  • Keep to a reading schedule to make sure you at least scan every assignment.
  • Share the load with other students. Agree with four or five classmates to divide up the required reading for a course, each of you reading carefully and digesting some of the material. Since you will be able to consult the thorough summaries prepared by your classmates, you can skim these readings that were not your responsibility. This is not a way for you to get out of doing the assigned reading, but a way for you and your colleagues to guide each other to those portions of the readings that are most important.
  • Don’t feel bad about not reading everything carefully! This is an exercise in humility, since it reminds you that your ability to read and learn is finite. Besides, smart readers are purposeful readers.


A Note on Reading in Seminary

Many seminary students feel obligated to read every book and article assigned by their professors.  While such a desire is admirable, it is neither responsible nor realistic

This is especially the case for students balancing heavy course requirements with responsibilities to family, church, and work. For this reason, choose your reading carefully. Consider which reading assignments will most help you succeed in your class and in your present or future ministry. Focus on these materials, and skim other assignments as time permits.

Your reading and learning should continue beyond your few years at seminary, so you need not become discouraged with short-term time constraints. Moreover, no one (including your professors) is able to read enough books to attain complete and comprehensive knowledge on any subject; that privilege is God’s alone. In humility, seek to learn as much as possible—but only that much—in the time that you have.


In this section:

Reading Quickly

Staying Focused

Reading with a Goal



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