Using Your Textbook Effectively

Textbooks provide detailed explanations of information. Many students highlight important information in textbooks but even if you’re borrowing or renting a textbook here are some other options for effective study strategies.

  • Start at the end of each chapter.
    • Some textbooks include questions at the end of each chapter. By starting with these questions you can determine what information you already know and what you need to spend more time getting to know.
    • Read the final summary of the chapter to get a general idea of what is covered.
    • Look at the headings and subdivisions of the chapter to identify sections you need to read.
    • Read the chapter introduction to get a high level overview.
    • Then work through the chapter from front to back, focusing on the sections that contain the answers for questions you did not know at the end of the chapter.
  • Read for the important concepts.
    • Textbooks can be incredibly detailed. The Important concepts – your “takeaways” – are frequently in bold or in section headings. They may also be summary sentences for each section of a chapter.
    • Rewrite these important concepts in your own words to ensure you understand them.
  • Read for key details.
    • Key details support the important concepts. This will look different for each subject but a good way to identify them is to answer the questions at the end of the chapter.
  • Take notes on your readings.
    • Summarize each paragraph in eight words or less.
    • Build vocabulary lists and concept lists, making sure to rephase vocabulary words in your own words.
    • Review any diagrams and make new diagrams to explain concepts.
  • Optimize your comprehension.
    • Determine what time of day is easiest for you to read dense material. Save that time for reading your textbooks.
    • Read out loud.
    • Create a distraction-free environment.
    • Take a break after every chapter.


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