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How to Read a Textbook


Reading textbooks can be daunting, particularly if you haven’t done it for a while.

But there are many ways to make it more manageable.

Break them up. Use sticky tabs to divide your books into sections with dates on them of when you need to have them read by. It helps keep your reading targets manageable.

Active reading. Look into reading techniques to help you become a more effective reader.

Some techniques include:

  • Developing an overview: the first time you open a text, have a quick look at things like headings, images, paragraph sizes, and anything else that stands out. Think about questions like what is this about and what will be the best approach to reading it? You can then formulate a plan for reading it
    For example, if the paragraphs are long and the subject seems complex, you might want to grab a notepad to write a sentence summary for each paragraph to check your understanding
  • Skimming: read the introduction, then the first sentence of each paragraph, then the conclusion. Go back and read more fully anything you didn’t understand.
  • Scanning: go over the text, picking up only the key words or phrases. Pay attention to headings and images.

These techniques can help you get a feel for the concepts and an overall understanding of what you’re reading. You can then read more fully the sections you need to (or all of it) and take notes.

Have a reading goal. It’s a good idea to be clear on what you’re reading for – you could write this on a sticky note to have at the top of the page or on your desk. This helps keep you stay focused. Are you trying to understand a particular concept? Looking to answer a question in your FTM?

An unused textbook is worth nothing to you. Your textbook should look like you’ve read it.

It can be a beneficial to highlight and write notes in the margins as you read. This can help with revision – your eyes will be drawn to the key pieces of information. Don’t highlight everything, though! Practice identifying key words or phrases.

Extra research may be required. You may like to have a Google search page open in front of you as you read. You can look up any words you’re not familiar with as you go to help you understand as you read. If you’re writing in your textbook, write these definitions near the word so you don’t have to look it up again later if you forget.

As with anything, take reading your textbooks one step at a time and seek help if you need it.