Improve College Success: Master the Art of Reading Your Textbook

read textbooks

By Laura Glading, Charlotte Campus Director of Academic Affairs

GladingOne of the under-utilized tools students can use to improve their success is to read their textbooks. Although reading your textbook materials before class can help you be more efficient in taking notes, more prepared to understand the day’s topic, and more able to retain the class information, reading textbooks can be daunting. Students often avoid reading because texts are long, boring, and usually hard to follow.

However, simply by changing a few ways you approach reading your textbooks you can shortcut your reading time and optimize your retention.

  1. Start in the summary. It is a more digestible overview of the key points of the chapter and will typically follow the same outline as the chapter. This can provide a roadmap to the key points of the chapter and where to find them. The chapter will likely be organized the same as the summary. Creating a working outline from the summary will make it easier to take notes while you read, and will likely improve your note taking in class.
  1. Review the questions. If there are questions in the back of the chapter, review them. You may not have the answers, but this will give you some key terms and concepts to be looking for when you read. If you created an outline of your summary, insert those questions on the outline where you think the answers might be found.
  1. Skim the chapter. Look for bolded, highlighted or italic text, and match it up to your summary outline. This will help you determine areas of the text to read more carefully. Look for graphs, pictures, and diagrams. Be aware of them if they relate to the key information from the summary or questions. When you find information that you have identified from the summary, read those sections more carefully.

If you follow these simple steps, you can shorten your reading time, and retain more.