Textbook Study

Do you spend countless hours reading your textbook without getting much out of it? Or do you sometimes read unimportant material that you’re not required to know for the test? Efficient textbook study skills can help you understand your textbook better without spending time reading unnecessary material. Follow these guidelines to help you achieve mastery of your textbook.

  • Before You Start
  • While You Read
  • After You Read (The Same Day)
  • Once a Week Review
  • Before the Test

Before You Start

  • Planning what, where, when, and how you will read can help you get more out of your reading. Use the following checklist to plan your reading.
  • Do I have a quiet, distraction-free place to read?
  • Have I decided exactly what subject, chapter, and pages that I will read?
  • Have I scheduled the necessary time that I will need to read?


  • Plan your time so that you read for 50 minutes with a 10 minute break in between to help with concentration.
  • For scheduling, time yourself so that you know how many pages you can read in 50 minutes.
  • Read and study during daylight hours whenever possible.

While You Read

Knowing what to look for will help you read more efficiently. Reading straight through your textbook may result in sometimes reading unnecessary material or filler. Just remember to SIREN!

  • Survey the Chapter. Read the intro, headings, subheadings, and the summary if available.
  • Inquire by asking a question about the heading i.e. what is Regression?
  • Read to answer the question. This will help you find the main idea from each section.
  • Emphasize by highlighting and underlining the words that answer your question.
  • Narrate. Recall the question you asked and speak out loud the words that you highlighted.

Continue this process, section by section, through the whole chapter.


  • Use different colored highlighters to signify different subjects/sections.
  • If you are short on time, only practice SIREN on sections emphasized the most in class/syllabus.

After You Read (The Same Day)

Make margin notes. Write the words that you emphasized in SIREN and write them in the margin of your book.


  • Cover up the page of text and then, using your margin notes as cues, recite in your own words (and out loud) the ideas and facts in the chapter.
  • Make note cards with your margin notes on one side and the explanation on the other for studying on-the-go.

Once a Week Review

Review ALL your margin notes/note cards since the beginning of the semester. Making 3x5 note cards is a good way to review on-the-go.


  • Schedule 30-60 minutes per week per subject.
  • Review on the bus, train, walking to and from classes, etc.
  • Recite out loud.

Before the Test

Make an OUTLINE. Think about what you have learned and create a brief outline of the main ideas. Reflect on how the pieces of the subject fit together.


  • Continue reciting the material out loud.
  • First, try making the outline without the aid of your notes and then use your notes to fill in missing ideas.