How to Study and Take Notes From a Textbook

In order to excel as a college student taking notes is a skill that you have to master; it comes in handy especially when you’re preparing for an exam or test. The ability to take in information, process it, restructure it, and present it in a way that will be understandable not only for you but for others as well is one of those basic skills that are useful throughout life. Such a skill might be difficult to develop if you don’t start taking notes now that the time is right. Notes are handy for your own reference and memorization. As a college student we encounter an infinite number of information. It could be during lectures, classes, or while reading a textbook. Our success lies in how well we are able to retain such information in order to use them in the future.

A lot of us find it easier reading a novel than a textbook. We can devote hours and hours to our favorite Harry Potter series; however, the real challenge begins when it’s a few days to an exam and we have a textbook before us. Reading a textbook is different from reading a novel. Textbooks are made to inform and educate us. They communicate ideas by explaining information in details. Because of this, we need a different approach to studying textbooks. In this article we listed down a few tips that can help you master the skill of taking notes when reading a textbook.

1. Firstly, You Need to Understand Your Purpose of Reading

Before you open a textbook you should ask yourself what you’re studying for. Is it for a multiple choice test? An exam? Or just simple revision? Knowing this will help you determine the specific information you need to get from the textbook. If you’re studying for a multiple choice test, this will require you to pay close attention to facts, definitions, terms, words written in bold italics, etc. These sort of information are short and very quick to comprehend. Jot down these facts in your notebook and later you can use them to test yourself. If you’re studying for a written exam however, then you have to understand the main idea of what you’re reading and focus on the most important points. After that you should summarize it and explain it in your own words.

2. Preview Your Textbook Before You Start Taking Notes

Before you start taking notes, you should first of all read your textbook thoroughly in order to have a general overview or idea of what you’re reading about. Start by reading the introduction, headings, chapters, chapter summary, and chapter questions (if included). There will always be one or two important facts hidden within a chapter, while the rest is just additional information for better understanding. This method will help you to comprehend the contents of the textbook firsthand and to know which vital information you need to pay closer attention to. Once you’ve gone through every chapter you can now proceed to take notes of what is important.

3. Always Highlight

Highlighting is a bright and colorful method that helps you remember important information while reading. This method will not only makes it easier for you to spot certain words, but also forces you to concentrate on relevant information in each and every paragraph. Before you start highlighting, you have to ask yourself in every sentence if what you’re reading is critical and likely to come out in the exam. Don’t highlight everything because that just defeats the purpose. Try to keep it to a minimal and focus on keywords, facts, and concepts. If the textbook isn’t yours and you’re afraid to mark on it, then you should use highlighted sticky notes. Write concise sentences or bullet points on the sticky notes regarding what you think is critical to remember from this paragraph and then just stick them beside or under the paragraph.

4. Make Summaries

At the end of reading every chapter or paragraph you should make a short summary, preferably using your own words, of what you understood from it. By writing this down, you create your own terms instead of using the textbook language and this in turn will make it easier for you to remember. Use the same titles or headings from the textbook on your notebook as well or you can create your own. Under each headline, shortly list down the important facts that you gained from reading the chapter and don’t forget to give a brief explanation of these facts so that you can understand them better. Tip: using different colors, as well as graphs, charts, drawings etc makes the process of taking notes not only colorful but interesting as well. The brain remembers information more easily when it is associated with colors and drawings.