10 Tips for Studying & Taking Notes from Textbooks

Studying is the main struggle of student life – or maybe it’s a close tie with budgeting. In any case, it’s definitely not easy, and becomes a whole lot harder when professors insist on making you study from the textbook. Sometimes, students also need to study and make notes from borrowed books, and must record key information before returning it.

Sounds easy enough, yet most of us don’t even know where to begin. Here are ten quick tips to help make the process that much easier.

1. Remove Distractions

Finding a great place to read with the least amount of distractions is the first step. This might mean the library, or a local park. For suggestions on the best places to get some work done, check out: 5 Best Places to Study.

Once you find a great spot, put the phone away and on silent – not vibrate or ring. Close Facebook and Instagram. Ignore any invitations from friends to go out. Focus.

2. Schedule Time

Schedule a particular time each day, or on specific days, to do some reading. And don’t just read aimlessly; set a goal. If you miss a day, make up for it another day. Do not skip over it.

For instance, you may choose to start reading at 8PM every night, with the aim to finish a chapter before bed. If you end up falling asleep halfway through, then tomorrow night, that’s a chapter and a half to complete.

Self-discipline is key to getting it over and done with as soon as possible. Turning the action into a routine makes self-discipline easier, as you program your mind to accept that at 8PM, it’s time to suck it up and read the bloody textbook.

3. Use Highlighters

Use highlighters or coloured pens and pencils to highlight important points, if you have permission to do so. If not, photocopy the pages you need so you can scribble all over them, freely.

The use of colour helps to keep things interesting, and reminds you what to look out for the next time you read the book.

4. Write Down Connections

Use a pencil (or pen, if you prefer) to write in the book – or on a notepad – as you go along. Make connections with things the lecturer said in class, or what you read in another chapter or another course.

Taking time to make these connections, and to write them down, gives you something to do besides endless reading. Those connections might also really impress your lecturer on a test.

5. Do the Activities

If questions or activities are in the book, try them. Again, this helps you to stay focused by giving you something to do besides just reading.

It also forces you to become more familiar with the textbook as you look for answers to the questions. And if nothing you read for the past hour sticks, this is where you’ll find out.

6. Read After Class

If possible, do your textbook reading after class. A lot of instructors prefer when students read before; and while it’s better to read before class, the textbook isn’t always the best option.

Textbooks are most boring when the information is unfamiliar. After class, all the mumbo-jumbo will actually start to make sense.

If reading the textbook beforehand is necessary for your classes, then ignore this recommendation.

7. Watch YouTube Videos

If you absolutely must read the textbook before class, then go to YouTube to see if you can find lectures or videos about the topic your textbook intends to cover, first. This helps to present the same information in a more palatable form, as lectures are supposed to do.

Getting an introduction in a more interesting way the first time around better prepares you for the reading ahead. You’ll feel smarter when you start reading and realise you already know some of the content.

8. Don’t Read in Bed

Do not read or study in your bed. Many people do this, and then grow tired or bored, and just fall asleep. When I was in college, I studied in a chair, or on the floor. You need to be comfortable enough to focus, but not so comfortable as to fall asleep.

My biology teacher taught me that the best way to fight sleep is to stand. I’m not sure if it works for everyone, but it definitely works for me. In any case, laying down is definitely not going to help anyone fight the deafening call of sleep.

9. Reward Yourself

Think of something you would rather do besides studying. Is it tweeting? Blogging? Video games? Use this as a reward in between every 5 to 10 pages, one chapter, or half an hour of reading.

It’s up to you to decide how long you can go on for. Your breaks should only be about a third of the study time. So half an hour of studying should mean ten minutes to do whatever you want. Set an alarm or timer and stick to it.

Do not reward yourself for more than the agreed time, or you probably won’t ever get back to that textbook. Again, self-discipline gets the work done faster.

10. Change your Major

If all else fails, consider switching your major to something you love. Sometimes studying becomes difficult no matter what you do, because you have no interest in what you’re studying at all.

Keep in mind that if you hate the courses, chances are you will hate the job twice as much. Find something you love and go from there.

Best of luck with your studies. If you have a topic you’d love to see us cover, shoot us an email. We usually respond in less than 72 hours.

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About the Author

Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mage and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Norah says:

    You’ve given some great advice here Alexis. It should be very useful to anyone studying – as long as they don’t get distracted by non-study related YouTube videos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha you’re right. YouTube is definitely more spammy with those videos now than when I was in college. Great point.

      And thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YouTube is seriously getting me through chemistry. Lol it’s like my own tutor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It got me through calculus so I totally understand!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sharonamondi says:

    Some great advice there. I will definitely apply them in my studying habits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome. I’m sure they’ll help. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sharonamondi says:

        Thank you

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Carmen says:

    I always use videos to get me through science/math courses! Sometimes it just makes sense when someone else explains it to you.

    I made the mistake of reading in bed last semester. It didn’t take long until I fell behind on my readings and had to cram them all in before the exam! That’s one thing I’m hoping to improve next semester. I hate just reading out of a textbook, but it’s a necessary evil.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Videos helped me a lot in college, as well. I only used them for my calculus courses, and maybe for accounting.

      I never read in my bed, unless it’s fiction and bed time lol. I learned that lesson very early. Sometimes you wake up and have no idea when you fell asleep.

      Better to read in an empty classroom, in the library, or the park. I also just read at my desk. I still do.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Asawholebeing says:

    Great tips 👌🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found them useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As someone who tackles computer science and other topics that make my head hurt, the idea of watching YouTube videos on the topic first to sort of prime the brain is differently something I’m going to do in the future. Thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I could help! Let me know how it works out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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