How to Read Your Textbooks More Efficiently – College Info Geek
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How to Read Your Textbooks More Efficiently – College Info Geek


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.

About James Carlton

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99 thoughts on “How to Read Your Textbooks More Efficiently – College Info Geek

  1. Hi, do you have tips for an open book exam? I study law and I have my first open book exam in a couple weeks, I have no idea how to study for it!

  2. It's sad that we have come to the point where one has to reward themselves for reading, Reading is a reward to me in itself.

  3. Getting into the habit of reading everyday is the best decision I made since years. It helped me a lot prevail over feeling overwhelmed by huge texts.

  4. Brain: “Why must I read this?”
    …”this is one of those useless classes they’re making me take. I don’t have to learn any of this.”
    *Drops out of College*

    In all seriousness, does this thought process enter anyone’s mind? I’m constantly going, “why the fuck do I really need to learn sociology if I’m majoring in computer science?”
    *reading through the chapter*
    “oh my f*cking god this is STUPID!”

  5. To those who say “I’m watching this instead of studying”, I’d rather “sharp my axe before cutting the tree”.

  6. I know all the comments about your looks are about you being attractive but that aside you really look like jcole before he had dreads.

  7. Hi my name is Daniel I'm trying to understand what I read and what is important in the book.one of most hardest thing to do writing it in my own words

  8. Always focus when you read, a lot of people will simply read a chapter without even linking all of the ideas in a meaningful way.

  9. My college had 10/week terms so by the time you figured out the way the class worked it was over. Fortunately we had a lot of the same teachers, so we knew what they were looking for.

  10. This is probably the most frustrating thing about college is the readings. Compared to high school the readings are so much bigger and especially if the teacher doesn’t go through the readings much in class and quickly goes through each reading then it is very overwhelming. The only times I can keep up with the readings are if the subject is interesting, the class is 3 days a week and the teacher goes over it, or the teacher gives time. I love reading books actually but I strongly dislike how colleges expect to do readings in such a short period of time. I think readings should in 2 weeks each chapter or the class should try its best reviewing.

  11. i have 100 page book i have to finish it at 60 days any tip will be help full the exam is near and i am in depression

  12. Your video is awesome (After half the video is where the input based and output based assessment stuff – Je t'aime ca)

  13. I can’t focus on studying, when I am studying ^~*
    “Ugh”
    I’ll never get into college
    “Sigh”….
    How can I prepare my self?

  14. thank you so much for this!!! I’m currently taking an 8 week (normal classes are 12-15 weeks) Abnormal Psych class where we have to read a 14 chapter book for the final exam; we’re halfway through and I’m only on chapter 3 and I was stressing out about how I was going to squeeze in 10 chapters of information in 4 weeks but your advice and tips on active reading and note taking gave me new motivation and now I’m thinking I could actually pull this off 😂

  15. Hey Thomas, I am huge fan of your videos. I am going to start pursuing an M.M. in jazz performance in the fall and a lot of these tips are also extremely helpful for developing good listening skills 🙂

  16. I usually just do the homework while reading the book and only find the stuff that’s on the quizzes and homework, then study that homework and quiz.

  17. I had summer vacation and September free because my school starts at october 1st, thanks to you I learnt so much strategies and i will apply them 🙂

  18. Hi Thomas, I’m a distance student. Do you have tips for taking notes from a textbook. For distance student it’s difficult to gauge what lectures want us to study cause we basically have to read- and study almost everything in our textbook.

  19. I’m taking APUSH this year and we’re actually required to read the textbook. One chapter every week. It’s only been 2 months of school and I have a 60 in that class, mainly because I was not studying or reading. Right now it’s a 60, brought it up from a 54 because I actually started studying. Anyways right now I’m trying to find effective ways to study the chapter and actually remember it. What I am currently doing is taking Cornell notes, first time I read and taken notes, and then I read it again section by section and try remembering key terms and concepts. And the night before the reading check I read it again. It’s kind of hard to fit this in my schedule because I am taking 3 other Ap classes and I work. So R.I.P. Anyways Any suggestions?

  20. Thanks! At first I downvoted it because of the obvious and basic information at the beginning but i upvoted it after the end which was very helpful 🙂

  21. I don't read actual books but there are books I wish to read..Demon Slayer Volume 1, Vampire Dairies or Originals book 1, and End of Average which is a book after reading a video on YT about students should critically think for themselves aside from actual standardized tests for performance.

    I mostly prefer reading blogs and articles that are my liking, if they're not then it's not worth my time. Because it's something I'm not interested in doing. I've been blogging on this app called Zodiac Amino it's standalone app from the actual app which is Amino, where you can connect with people who shares your hobbies, and interests. Zodiac Amino is where I read blogs that are written by like minded people like me who are interested in astrology, and post something creative. Because writing is creative especially art, poetry, and etc.

  22. Input and Output goals have been the best take-away from this video. There's a time to take in information and to put it out.

  23. This is my current issue… our midterm was 10 chapters of a Lifespan development book. Professor offered no study guide, and her lectures are always scattered, sometimes she skips parts of her power point… and the powerpoint are very boring. Definitely struggling in this course.. she says to know they key terms, but there are soooo many terms in this book it's overwhelming.

  24. 1. Dont read a textbook like you would a newspaper because when people read newspapers, they are not reading to apply what they are learning (passive reading).

    2. Read the book the same way you would talk to with a friend that challenges you intellectually; eager listening, contributing your own words to the conversation and together, you two form something new i.e., active reading. Good for learning and applying what you read int the textbook.

    3. Create 2 habits to read your textbook: reading consistently & using active reading instead of passive reading. Get into the habit of reading everyday to make a consistent effort. Create small notes/summary of what you just read daily to bee consistent and to become more actively involved in what you are reading.
    – Create an input based goal to make sure you're getting into the habit of daily reading by committing to read each day for 15 minutes for example and increase your time from there.
    – Create an output based goal by creating a summary page of what you just read to ensure you are actively reading.
    – Find ways to reward yourself once your goal is completed to enforce the positive feeling you get when doing the readings!!

  25. I don't understand why textbook writers structure their book so that chapters take several hours to read. What realistic human being has time to read a chapter for that long while also having other readings to do, classes, and a full time job? I honestly think they are outdated.

  26. it different for english lit , have absorb the mode and style of the author , thats more why classes should use house of leaves , that would show how many were paying attention

  27. " don't expect youre going to read efficiently by just rereading passages". Oh I felt understood by what you said here aha!

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