How to Tackle Dense Reading

SinnerC's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | banana points 25

I currently have a stack of books to read that include dense, technical material such as McKinsey's "Valuation" handbook. I struggle to absorb the information in such a way as to be able to use the information later. To say it is slow going would be an understatement, since some of this material is more dense than my college textbooks.

Are there any techniques or strategies people use to get through technical material? I want to make the most out of what I am reading and not just sit there without processing it.

Thanks in advance!

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Comments (30)

Mar 11, 2017

bump

Mar 15, 2017

Bump

Mar 15, 2017

I recommend an ice pick.

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

Mar 15, 2017

Try doing some case studies....
working through problems may help.
figure out your learning bias. i.e., learn by doing or absorb theory and simply apply....
Some people can read a reference book and absorb it. Most cant.some professors throw stuff at you to drown you, or because they are lazy...
The Naval Academy intentionally overloads people to teach them to prioritize under pressure...
expect some programs and real life to do the same.....

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Mar 11, 2017

Thanks for the response. Good point about the learning bias. I don't struggle much in class because of assigned problems and case studies, it is more about reading these books for fun and trying to create my own ways to get engaged. I definitely learn by applying and seeing how things work. Any tips?

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Mar 27, 2017

Any type of studying/learning is about finding your best way of retaining information. I learn best when teaching material to others, unfortunately this only works while in school or showing my dogs how to fetch. Until you know how to best learn, I can only suggest that you actively work through the readings. Read a concept, try and apply it to another scenario and work a problem (most technical books have practice problems, concept reviews, etc).

Also, google helps click-here

Mar 20, 2017

You can find materials of similar topics or browse the internet to get a clear picture of them.

Mar 30, 2017

When I'm studying for CFA and when I used to study for exams, I use a legal pad and just create an outline of the material. I write down all the definitions/formulas to both help memorize and as a way to go back. Things like a consulting or valuation handbook isn't something you take one pass at and fully understand. But if you retain the main principals, and take good notes; than it's a useful resource for you to be able to go back to seek details. Or just get some adderal

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Mar 30, 2017

hooked on phonics.

How is your reading comprehension level not up to par ? Are you not in college?

Mar 30, 2017

read more

Mar 30, 2017

This book helps me tremendously! Read, understand and practice the principles laid out in this classic. Hope that helps

http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Touchstone-boo...

My formula for success is rise early, work late and strike oil - JP Getty

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Mar 30, 2017

There is no easy solution to this, you just have to read more. Do you have a daily reading queue that you work through every morning? That can help...

Mar 30, 2017

not sure how effective it is, but this post is the first thing that came to mind

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/07/30/sp...

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Mar 30, 2017

To comprehend quickly, you need to understand proper structure. First para or two should introduce the topic and the argument/key thesis (the "point"). subsequent paragraphs should elaborate/provide supporting evidence. Final paragraph should provide some sort of conclusion/extension.

If an article/report is well written, you should be able to understand the key points by doing the following only -

  • read the first paragraph of article, paying special attention to the first and last sentences (ideally last sentence of first para is the "point")
  • read the first sentence of each subsequent paragraph
  • read the final paragraph

this should give you a sense of the most important points the author is trying to get across. then go back and read the first sentences again and see if any are points significant enough to be worth drilling into and getting details.

Thans just speed, comprehension comes with just reading, a lot, and quality stuff. Reading newspapers (WSJ, NYT), long-format journalism (The New Yorker), novellas/plays (Shakespeare, heart of darkness) are great ways to build these skills. Also try reading longer, classic works although this takes a lot of free time!

Also, don't just read, but read critically, analyzing structure. Print out a copy of a newspaper article and mark it up, highlighting the introduction, body and conclusion. think about the role/purpose of each sentence. Ask yourself, what is the point? What are the key supporting evidence? what is the conclusion? how has the author laid this out? Once you have the structure down, you can start analyzing content (how well does the evidence support the thesis? what would be additional supporting/contradictory evidence? etc).

Mar 30, 2017

Thanks for the tips.

Mar 30, 2017

Just read as much as possible and you will get better at it over time. I always loved reading ever since I was a kid, so always had great comprehension, and didn't think it could get much better. I was wrong, ever since I started working at a hedge fund, I read the equivalent of hundreds and hundreds of pages every day, and I can definitely tell the difference. It is also important to get variety, everything from textbooks to newspapers to non-fiction to novels. Challenge yourself with difficult classical novels, dense papers, etc.

Mar 30, 2017

Macro,

That's the issue I'm having. Reading comprehension per se, like those in SATs are no problem, so is school (textbooks, reports, etc). Its the ability to devour the hundreds of pages (ie. annual reports, papers, econ. reports, etc.) at a reasonable amount of time and being able to have good attention to detail as well as keep tabs of important items, which becomes a difference maker at work.

Once I get to about 150-200 or so pages in a sitting my mind starts to wander or wants to do something else, not to mention, my getting through the 150-200 pages is often slower than those who read well. Its not so much that I'm tired of work at that given point in time, since whenever I start getting tired of reading, I being to look for other things to work on. So the issue is definitely the reading part.

Mar 30, 2017

try reading as fast as you can and then summarizing it in your mind without looking back.. start doing this for each paragraph, then each page, then each chapter...

Mar 30, 2017

I had a problem with retaining what I read in the past. I just reread the chapter until I could fully summarize it. If by the end of each chapter you cant tell a random person about it in the shortest way possible, reread it.

Mar 30, 2017

Both Buffet and Charlie Munger have said they are not speed readers. It's about how well you retain the information, not how fast you get through it.

http://www.dorseyasset.com/docs/Notes2011BerksHath...

Mar 30, 2017
  1. Why do you know your reading speed?
  2. Why are you talking about it publicly?
  3. Why do you assume anyone else gives enough of a shit to know theirs?
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Mar 30, 2017
CRE:

1. Why do you know your reading speed?
2. Why are you talking about it publicly?
3. Why do you assume anyone else gives enough of a shit to know theirs?

Because I believe in improving myself. I'm able to read twice as fast while maintaining the same comprehension because of knowing my reading speed.

I assume everyone here wants to improve their selves, reading fast is a valuable skill. I have a few analyst friends that know their reading speed, so I didn't think that was so far-fetched

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Mar 30, 2017

The only thing speed reading gets you in investment banking is a missed comment at 3 am. Then you've got a footnote on p38 of a 54 page pitchbook with an irrelevant peer ticker in it.

Mar 30, 2017

We'll see how you feel about speed reading when you take a huge loss because you missed something in the footnotes of a 10-k.

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

Mar 30, 2017
Best Response
Mar 30, 2017