How to Read Your Textbooks More Efficiently – College Info Geek

How to Read Your Textbooks More Efficiently – College Info Geek

August 15, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


What’s up, everybody? It’s Thomas from College
Info Geek. Did you ever wonder how you’re going to get all the information in these
crazy, huge reading assignments in a freaking weekend? I want to share a quote with you
that I learned over the week-end while doing research for this video. It goes like this,
“The mark of a successful college student is the mastery of knowing not only what to
study, but also how to study it.” This applies to your readings as much as it applies to
anything else in college. In last week’s video, I went over some strategies
that you can use to figure out whether or not you actually need to do a reading assignment
at all. In this video, I want to start focusing on how you should actually tackle the reading
assignments that you do need to do. I have three main goals that I want you to keep in
mind here. Number one, you want to learn the right information from your readings. Obviously,
you can’t learn every single thing in the book so you want to figure out what is important
and get that into your brain. Number two, you want to retain that information for as
long as you can and be able to use it later. Number three, you want to reduce your study
time and the amount of time you have your nose stuck in the book. To start improving
in all of these areas, the first thing that I want you to think about is the ‘why’. Why
are you doing this reading? A lot of people would say, “You’re reading to learn,” and,
obviously, yes, that’s the point of the education. I think there’s another more immediately practical
reason that you’re doing a reading. That is how you’re going to be assessed on that reading.
Being a strategic reader means using different strategies for different reading purposes.
Those purposes are defined with the assessments you’re going to face in class which lead back
to your immediate goal of earning awesome grades. Most students tackle their reading
assignments like zombies. They look at the reading assignment and they go, “Must run
my eyes over x number of pages by tomorrow night.” That’s it. Don’t be a reading zombie.
Otherwise, your exams are going to turn into a chainsaw. Know what it is that your brain
needs to pull out of the reading and focus on that.
Here are four common reasons that you might do a textbook reading. Number one, you’re
going to be facing down a multiple choice test. Number two, you’re going to have to
do an essay, actually creating something from scratch in your own words. Number three is
the evaluation of data in labs which applies to more technical and scientific majors. Number
four, is the summarization of research for class presentations and reports. The type
of assessment that you have to do will dictate what kind of information you need to pull
out of your readings. For instance, if you’re going to have to do
a multiple choice test, then you’re going to want to focus on the details of the reading
assignments, taking smart, concise notes about all the little things in a class and then
turning those into questions that you can study rapid fire later on. If you’re in a
class where you have to write essays, then thorough knowledge of the main ideas is more
important. You’re going to want to focus more on summarization and making sure that you
can communicate what you learned in your own words.
There’s a tip from the video I did last week on figuring out whether or not you even need
to do a reading assignment that applies perfectly here as well. That is to gauge your classes.
As a semester goes on, be mindful of what’s in the syllabus and what your professor generally
uses to assess you and then apply that knowledge to your readings. This will take practice,
but as time goes on, you’re going to find that this mindfulness really pays off in the
time it saves you and the clarity it gives you when you’re looking at your book.
Once you’ve gauged those classes and figured out the type of information you want to pull
from your reading, how do you actually go about doing that reading? To start out, let
me give you a universal tip that applies to any reading you do. It’s this, “Don’t read
your textbooks like you read a newspaper.” People who read the newspaper aren’t reading
to apply what they’re learning. They’re just reading to get the gist of the day’s events.
You’re not reading for gists, you’re reading for application. Also, don’t expect that you’re
going to learn efficiently by just reading and rereading passages over and over again.
The writer, Virgina Voeks, said that, “How often you read something is immaterial. How
you read it is crucial. Think of a book like an art museum. You can walk through the Met
in New York ten times, look at all the paintings each time you go through, and still know next
to nothing about any of the art there. You might know the general layout, where certain
pieces are, but if I ask you for details, “Which artist created this painting? Where
was this dog-thing sculpted,” you won’t have a clue.
Books are really the same. Possibly running your eyes over the pages is like casually
strolling through an art museum and not actually studying any of the pieces. It’s actually
worse because the brain is better at remembering emotionally evocative pictures and imagery
than it is at remembering squiggly, arbitrary lines on paper. Instead, try to read in the
same way that you’d talk with a friend who challenges you intellectually. You listen
eagerly, you contribute your own words to the conversation, and, eventually, both of
you create information that comes together to make something new. This is called active
reading. It’s crucial for being able to retain what you learn from your textbooks and be
able to apply it later on. In my next video, I’m going to over a framework
of specific techniques that you can try out to start using active reading. To round this
video out, I want to leave you with a technique that you can use to create a small win in
your studies. Here it is. Create two different habits for your textbook readings. The first
one is going to focus on getting you to read consistently. The second one is going to focus
on getting you to start using active reading instead of passive reading.
The first habit I think you should try out is reading daily. This might mean planning
ahead in advance what you’re going to read for a certain week and maybe even reading
some outside material if you finish everything. It’s all about getting into the habit of reading
every single day, making a consistent effort. For the second habit, try to write down a
small amount of notes for each reading you do or create a small summary for each reading.
It doesn’t have to be anything large, you just want to get into the habit of doing it
and being more actively involved in your reading. With both these habits, you can experiment
with making them either input based or output based. Input-based habits have a fixed amount
of effort that you have to put in to them so read for fifteen minutes. That’s only fifteen
minutes of effort and then you’re done. On the flip side, output-based habits are based
on making something concrete. Write one page of notes could be an output-based habit. The
amount of time and effort you need to put into it isn’t fixed.
Personally, I use both of these types of habits in my own reading. For my actual reading habit,
I use an input-based goal, read for fifteen minutes every single day and then once I’ve
gotten into that, I usually read for longer and I start getting more engaged. Then, I
use an output-based goal which is to write half a page of notes on what I’m reading to
make sure that I’m actively learning. Whichever type you choose, it’s also important
to build a small reward into your habit. Getting good grades is a good reward, but it’s something
that’s a little too far off to really count. I would say, find something else that rewards
you for getting the reading done every single day. For me, that’s ticking off a daily habit
[inaudible 06:13] which I’ve made a little bit more valuable by creating a challenge
in the College Info Geek guild. If you want to join that, you can go to the companion
blog post for this video which you’ll find linked down in the description.
Otherwise, you could do something else like watching an episode of your favorite show
on Netflix, playing a video game, or something else fun. Make sure that you’re building this
loop of, “Here’s a cue to do my reading, I’m going to do the reading, and take the notes,
then give myself a small reward to reinforce the positive feeling I get from doing that
reading.” That’s it for this video. If you want to get
my tips on active reading which will come in the next video, then make sure you subscribe
to this channel and you’ll get those right when they come out. Otherwise, I will see
you in
that next video.