Effective Reading Strategies

Effectively Reading Your Textbook

Effective Reading strategies for textbooks
Getty Images | xubing ruo

 

Newsflash: Your teacher doesn’t care if you read the whole chapter. I know that this sounds like a lie that teachers use to make sure you fail in school and life in general, but I am not kidding. At all. In fact, if you're using effective reading strategies, you're not going to read every single word. You don't really have to. You know what your teacher wants, more than anything? (Outside of a massage and a million bucks?) Your teacher just wants you to learn the material you're supposed to know, and if you use the following effective reading tips for textbooks, you'll be sure to do that.

Read to learn; don't just read to read. There is absolutely no guilt if you skip around as long as you understand what you're supposed to. 

Secret Study Skills of Successful Students

Effective Reading Strategies Involve Less Actual Reading

The best way to spend your study hour when you get an assignment to "read a chapter" is to devote as little time as is humanly possible to actually putting your eyes across the words on the page and as much time as is humanly possible doing these things:

  • Testing yourself on the content
  • Organizing the content
  • Reviewing the content
  • Relating new concepts in the book to ones you already know
  • Identifying and memorizing technical terms, formulas, and vocabulary
  • Applying the concepts in the textbook to real-world situations

In other words, spend your time learning, not just hacking through the words on the page until they blur into a giant mass of indecipherable grayish figures.

Effective Reading Strategies For Learning a Chapter

As I said before, your teacher doesn't care if you read the whole chapter. He or she does care if you know the material. And you should, too. Here's how to minimize your reading and maximize your learning when you read a textbook. Just PEEK, ASK, ANSWER and QUIZ.

  1. Peek. Effective reading starts with dedicating the first part of your reading time to peeking through the chapter - look at chapter headings, view pictures, read the intro and conclusion, and browse through the study questions at the end. Get a feel for what you need to know. 
     
  2. Ask Questions. On a sheet of paper, transform your chapter headings into questions, leaving spaces underneath. Change “Early Romantic Poets” into “Who were the Early Romantic Poets?” Change “The Lithograph” into “What THE HECK is The Lithograph?” And on and on. Do this for every heading and subheading. Seems like a waste of precious time. I assure you, it is not. 
     
  3. Answer Questions. Read through the chapter to answer the questions you just created. Put the answers in your own words underneath the questions you’ve written on your paper. Paraphrasing what the book says is imperative because you'll remember your own words much better than someone else's.
     
  4. Quiz. When you’ve found the answers to all of the questions, read back through your notes with the answers covered to see if you can answer the questions from memory. If not, reread your notes until you can.

Effective Reading Summary

If you practice these effective reading strategies, your test/quiz/and exam study time will decrease DRAMATICALLY because you will have learned the material as you go instead of cramming for your test right before exam time.