How to Use a Highlighter to Improve Your Grades

Highlighting Is a Study Technique

Highlighters are a modern invention. But marking up or annotating texts is as old as published books. That's because the process of marking, highlighting, or annotating a text can help you to understand, remember, and make connections. The better you understand the text, the more effectively you'll be able to use what you've read in arguments, debates, papers, or tests.

Tips for Highlighting and Annotating Your Text

Remember: the point of using a highlighter is to help you understand, remember, and make connections. That means you'll need to actually think about what you're highlighting because you pull out the marker. You'll also, of course, need to be sure that the text you're highlighting belongs solely to you. If it's a library book or a textbook you'll be returning or reselling, pencil markings are a better choice.

  1. Highlighting willy-nilly is a waste of time. If you read a text and highlight everything that seems important, you’re not reading effectively. Everything in your text is important, or it would have been edited out before publication. The problem is that individual parts of your text are important for different reasons.
  2. You must determine what parts are important when it comes to the learning process, and determine those as worthy of highlighting. Without a plan for highlighting, you are simply colorizing your text. Before you start to read, remind yourself that some of the statements in your text will contain main points (facts/claims), and other statements will describe, define, or back up those main points with evidence. The first things you should highlight are the main points.
  3. Annotate while you highlight. Use a pencil or pen to make notes as you highlight. Why is this point important? Does it connect to another point in the text or to a related reading or lecture? Annotation will help you as you review your highlighted text and use it to write a paper or prepare for a test.
  4. Don’t highlight on the first reading. You should always read your school material at least twice. The first time you read, you will create a framework in your brain. The second time you read, you build upon this foundation and begin to really learn.Read your segment or chapter the first time to understand the basic message or concept. Pay close attention the titles and subtitles and read the segments without marking your pages at all.
  5. Highlight on the second reading. The second time you read your text, you should be prepared to identify the sentences that contain main points. You’ll realize that the main points are conveying the main points that support your titles and subtitles.
  6. Highlight other information in a different color. Now that you have identified and highlighted the main points, you can feel free to highlight other material, like lists of examples, dates, and other supporting information, but use a different color.

Once you have highlighted the main points in a specific color and back-up information with another, you should use the highlighted words to create outlines or practice tests.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Use a Highlighter to Improve Your Grades." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, January 29). How to Use a Highlighter to Improve Your Grades. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Use a Highlighter to Improve Your Grades." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).