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Academic Coaching and Study Skills

Blog Post # 2: How Can I Get the Most out of My Textbook?

How Can I Get the Most out of My Textbook?

By: Chelsey Finney & Cody Rogers

Do you ever find yourself trying to read an assigned chapter, but are overwhelmed by the information? Is it hard to make study notes, because everything you read feels important? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Like many skillsets, reading is one that you can improve over time. This post will help you identify key strategies that you can use to enhance your reading comprehension.

In order to retain what you read, you must critically engage with the material. You can kick-off this process by asking yourself questions as you read, such as: what is the author trying to tell me? Research has shown that by being inquisitive about what we’re reading, we are activating our brain to encode the information.

One strategy we like to use involves creating test questions and then searching for the answers in the textbook. Content comprehension has been linked to enhanced memory and fluent retrieval. Asking questions and engaging with the material is the first step on the road to succeeding with course assessments and assignments.

Comprehension strategies to try:

To engage with your textbook, draw on these strategies endorsed by Red River College Polytechnic’s very own coaches!

Strategy 1: Predicting

With this strategy, you are tapping into your past experiences and knowledge to make both predictions and associations as you read the text.

Take for an example a hypothesis. Within a scientific context, a hypothesis is a prediction and/or explanation of a phenomenon you are learning about. When you are reading a chapter in your textbook, draw on the visual cues of the section’s subtitles, diagrams, and study questions to form predictions about what material will be covered.

Strategy 2: Summarizing (aka elaboration)

Summarizing will help you decide what is important when reading your textbook. This is due to how you must condense the material into your own words.

Take for example listing key points on a cue card after reading each sub-header’s paragraph in the text. What were the main ideas? What points are relevant to what we are learning in class?

Fun fact: Summarizing will help you to exercise your organization and prioritization skills!

Strategy 3: Inferring

To infer, you must read between the lines in order to understand what is implied.

This resource makes the abstract concept of inferring more straightforward to picture.The following worksheet (provided by may help you to pull more information from your text than ever imagined. Try it out!

This inference activity will enable you to make predictions, identify core themes, create associations, and establish meaning with the material you’re reading.

Strategy 4: Questioning

This strategy is similar to inferring, in the sense that it allows you to question the key points of your text, construct meaning, enhance your understanding and problem-solve with the text’s material.

For example, if your instructor gives you a list of study questions that require you to dig in the textbook’s chapters for answers. By searching for the answers, you are filling in the mental gaps concerning knowledge. You are learning to differentiate between what is fact, what is inferred, and what is based on prior knowledge and/or experiences.

Click here for more insights into how to improve your reading skills.



Kucukoglu, H. (2013). Improving Reading Skills through Effective Reading Strategies. Procedia - Social and Behavioural Sciences, 70, 709-714. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from