Even in the age of Web 2.0, we could see that the college textbook still tops the list of essential student resources. Course syllabi depend on textbook content and professors continue to rely on textbooks to formulate their lectures. You have probably seen this first hand while taking classes. Understanding and utilizing the course textbook is one of the first study tips you’ll hear in the course of your classes, even more than any kind of exam preparation.

Of course, getting a copy wouldn’t be enough. You have to read the textbook, study its contents, and retain the information so that you could apply it to your studies; otherwise, it will just be a quaint paper weight on your table. Do you have a problem tackling this massive task? Here are 5 ways to help you work with your textbook and remember what you read.

Textbook tip #1: Get dirty – write on your textbook

Though textbooks are essentially print material meant to be read, doing so alone wouldn’t help you to master its contents. Do away with the thought that a textbook should be kept pristine – a clean textbook is an unused textbook. Write on its pages, doodle around its edges, and highlight away. Mark the passages that interest you and circle the important terms and jargon. Add your own illustrations. Use your textbook just like you’ll be using your notebook as a way to summarize your ideas and articulate your thinking.

Textbook tip #2: Do the textbook exercises first

Chapter exercises were designed to test a student’s knowledge about the material that is read, but did you know that it could also be used the other way around? Rather than doing the exercises at the end of the chapter, you could try to answer the chapter exercises before you even begin reading the actual contents. Doing so will help you become more familiar with the topics. The questions also act as a focusing device that helps you note the most important information in the chapter. Pencil in your answers daily and you’ll suddenly find yourself able to weather the occasional pop quiz.

Textbook tip #3: Browse the chapter summaries

With the same principle as doing the chapter exercises first, reading the chapter summaries also offer the same benefits to the student. These summaries usually emphasize the most important points of the chapter and draw your attention to terms and important themes that you should be familar with. By doing this, you will find yourself not only being able to prepare for an exam, but also having a strong understanding of the course topic.

Textbook tip #4: Connect lecture notes to the textbook

Since we already know that teachers use the class textbook in their lectures, it would be quite beneficial to tie the lecture notes and textbook content together. After taking notes from a lecture session, go back to your textbook and mark the areas of the text that were discussed during the lecture. Pencil in explainations, thoughts, and ideas. When something is mentioned in the lecture but not in the textbook, be sure to make note of it because it must be important. If a professor chooses to talk about it, it most likely will be on the next test. Going through this process of connecting the lecture with the textbook contents will help you memorize all the necessary information with less effort.

 Textbook tip #5: Write a lecture

After you’ve studied the textbook and played around with it a bit, the best way to truley master the knowledge you gained is to bring it to the next level. Writing a mock lecture or composing a short book for a five year-old would really challenge your understanding of the subject matter. If you are short on time, you could do the writing in your head and this mental workout will not only help you recall the information, but it will also ‘cement’ your understanding  for a gratifying grade.

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