How to effectively read a text book

It can be really challenging having motivation to read your university or school textbooks, I know that during my undergraduate degree that reading was one of the things I struggled with most. Whilst you may be able to avoid reading in some classes, you will most definitely need to understand the content in order to succeed in others. So I thought I would compile some tips on how to effectively read and understand your textbooks (although I sometimes avoided it in undergraduate, I am now a pro-textbook reader due to my teaching roles).

Allocate time in your weekly planner- Ensure you make reading your textbooks a priority, which means you should allocate time into your week to read the required sections.


Set goals– Something I find really useful is putting sticky note goals throughout the chapter (e.g. “get up to here by Tuesday”). This way you have something to work towards, and you can make sure you can get your required reading completed in the necessary timeframe.

Do little bits at time- I find reading textbooks to be really tedious, and I find that my mind wanders after a while- I overcome this by only reading for short (approx. 20 minute) periods a couple of times a day.

Learn how to effectively skim(ish) read- Whilst you cannot skim read an entire text book (if you want to actually understand what you are reading), you can learn to “skim(ish)” read. What I mean by this is if there is a section discussing something you already understand, you can skip it. Or if there is a really long-waffly section you can just look for just the key points necessary to understand the idea.

Note take throughout– Taking notes is really important if you want to consolidate your knowledge. I generally type up my notes as I find it easier to go back and look over them that way. Noting is also a great way to revise for your exams, as you can refer back to them in revision week.

Scan figures/tables- I also ensure that I scan any important figures or timetables into my notes. Again I find this a great way to revise, as often you will understand figures and/or tables easier than the long paragraphs.

Take the time to look up meanings of words- Whenever I came across a word I don’t know the meaning of I ensure that I take the time to look it up. It can sometimes change your complete understanding of an idea, and it also means you can use that word in your own future writing.





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