How to Read your Textbooks More Efficiently


Using the Preview, Read, Recall System for Academic Reading

Make sure that what you are reading really "sticks!" Using the Preview-Read-Recall system to guide your reading assignments assures that you are not mindlessly cruising through your material, but engaging with it and comprehending it.

Preview: Take 3-5 minutes to preview your reading assignment. Consider the structure of the text, sub-section headings, and diagrams. Skim the first sentence of each paragraph to gain a general understanding of the subject matter. After this brief preview, consider the following questions: What is this about? How is it organized? How long will it take me to read?

Read:  Using the knowledge you gained during your preview of this text, set a realistic time or page number goal for this reading session. Next, divide the text into smaller portions (perhaps 1/2 page sections? Columns?). Before reading each smaller section, pose a question for yourself and then try to answer it as you read. Take short breaks when your mind starts to wander or you begin to feel drowsy.

Recall: Research shows that we forget 40-50% of what we read within 15 minutes of reading it. Actively trying to recall what you've just read will help you retain the information in the long-run. Mentally revisit the questions that you posed for yourself as you read and then provide the responses. Underline key words or phrases in the text and use the margin to jot down notes on any key concepts. Pretend that you need to summarize this material to a friend: What would you say? How would you explain it?