Ways To Read Textbooks Effectively

When you move on to higher levels in your academic journey, you’ll realise that there’s a lot of reading to do. You will encounter thick textbooks filled with lots and lots words; not all of which would be important to you. Textbooks can be boring and there is not much that is exciting to look forward to.


If you have to read a textbook, chances are, you are trying to learn something new and hence looking out for elaborate explanations of topics that you are interested in. The process of learning something new can have lots of friction in the beginning; you might not understand with the first reading, you might need to re-read some sentences; you may have tonnes of questions even after reading the first line, etc.

Reading textbooks becomes a headache (especially if you are a medical student or law student) if you don’t learn the knack of it.

So, here are some tips that you can follow to read your textbooks effectively…


Before you open up the textbook to read a chapter, take a look at the overview of the topic. Take a few moments to think about what you already know about the topic that you are going to read. This process of priming your mind is useful as it would enable you to think critically and analyse what you know, what you do not know and about what you have yet to learn.

As you learn more about the topic once you have started reading, you will realise what your knowledge gaps are.


A grave mistake that students make when reading the textbook is passive reading. You cannot read a textbook like as if you are reading a novel. It is absolutely useless if a textbook is read in that manner. What you need to engage in is active reading.

What is active reading?

When you engage in active reading, it means that you are fully involved in whatever that you are reading. This means you are processing the information and encoding it into your brain the first time that you read it. In this process, questions might arise in your mind and you may realise that some of your misconceptions are being flagged out.

Some tips that can be followed for an effective active-reading session are,

  • Breaking down the topic into smaller components and reading them in spaced intervals
  • Underlining or highlighting keywords
  • Try out the associated questions found at the back of the chapter, or in assessment books.
  • Take notes only on topics which you think is necessary
  • Take note of topics or pages that need a couple of extra revisions in order to understand it better (you can go through such topics with your tuition teacher)
  • Talk it out; try explaining what you have learned to yourself or your peers.


Once you have gotten the gist of the topic that you’ve read, and once you have isolated the high-yield content which is the most testable, you will come to the realisation that there are some areas which you don’t have a strong understanding in.

When you discover your weaknesses and problems, you should take the necessary steps to rectify them. You can supplement your studies with private tuition (there are highly qualified tutors in many tuition agencies in Singapore), and with online platforms like YouTube.

With sufficient practice and the right amount of help, you will become a good textbook reader eventually!