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The Complete Guide That Makes Reading Textbooks Efficient and Simple

reading textbooks

As a college student, you will have to be able to read textbooks to understand and prepare for lessons and assignments. While this task may not be fun, you will find that it’s not something you can avoid. 

To make sure your reading textbooks most effectively, continue reading this helpful guide. Having prepared strategies before opening your textbooks can help you read efficiently while retaining the necessary information. Be prepared for your lessons, and put the work in to get great grades with this guide on reading textbooks. 

Come to the Text Prepared 

Jumping right into your assigned reading is not the best way to start. Instead, make sure you have a good general grasp on the themes and topics you’re about to dive into. Moving from the general to the more specific is a great way to prepare for effective reading and learning. 

Preview the text to develop a bigger picture that can help you prepare for readings. This will allow you to retain the information and focus on key details. There are some steps you can take when previewing the text that will assist your comprehension. 

Text Preview Tips 

Review all the chapters and subheadings for the section of the text you are about to read. Glance over any visual aids, such as images, charts, and graphs. This will help to give you an overview of the text your about to delve into. 

Read any bold or italicized glossary words and make sure you understand them. If you don’t, review them in the glossary of the textbook. By coming to the text already knowing the key terms, it will be much easier to situate them in the context of the lesson. 

Read the summary of the chapter if available. Then, flip to the chapter’s questions and read them over. You don’t need to worry about trying to answer the questions at this point, but reviewing the questions will allow you to identify the key things you should be pulling out from the text before reading. 

It may also be helpful to develop a list of your own questions that you want to answer after reading the text. This will give your reading direction and focus. There are some easy ways you can develop your own questions before reading. 

When you’re previewing the text, you can use the headings to develop questions you wish to answer. For example, if a heading is titled “The Key Causes of World War II”, your question can be “What were the key causes of World War II?”.

This will help you pull out the key information from the text. You can later use these questions as study guides for upcoming exams or essays. 

Tips for Retaining While Reading 

To make sure you’re retaining information while reading, you will want to engage with the text and stay active. This will help to keep you from zoning out or scanning the page without actually taking in the necessary information. While reading, work to answer the questions you’ve prepared for yourself. 

Many students find that reading out loud helps them to stay on track while reading. If you’re more of a visual learner, develop pictures, timelines, or graphs to help you make the materials presented much easier for you to remember and understand. Annotating while reading can be a great way to keep yourself actively engaged with the text. 

Tips for Annotating 

Highlighting key places in the text can help you use your textbook as a reference. When highlighting, being selective is the best way to make this practice useful. Try to highlight no more than 20% of the text. 

Annotating, or notetaking in your textbook can be a great way to engage with the text while reading. Make sure you only do this when permitted, as many rental textbooks may not allow you to make markings in the text. 

When reading, try to identify key concepts that may be exam questions. Underline these points and mark them with a “Q” in the margins. This can be a great way to use the text as your study guide.

If you come across terms or words you don’t know or understand, circle them. You can then look them up and write the definition in the margins.  

Consider ending your reading by writing a brief summary of the key things you learned from the text. Being able to summarize what you’ve read will help you make sure you’re prepared for your next class. 

After Reading

The notes and annotations you’ve taken are not only great tools while reading, but will be helpful after. Bring these notes to class, and take additional notes during your lesson. Stapel your notes from your reading and class lessons based on the chapter or topic.

This will allow you to have a complete and helpful study guide you can use to prepare for your exams. You may find that this method will keep you from cramming the night before the exam. Because you’ve already engaged with the text and marked potential exam questions, you can be prepared and confident to ace your exam. 

Reading Textbooks Like a Pro 

If you have trouble staying engaged when reading textbooks, keep these tips in mind. Your textbooks can be a great learning tool that you can use as a reference and study guide. To get the most out of your textbook readings, try out some of these ideas, and find a process that works for you. 

If you’re currently looking for cheap textbooks to buy so that you can mark them up while annotating, head to the “buy textbooks” section of our site. 

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.