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ASC: Supports for Students - Academic Coaching and Study Skills

Reading Science Textbooks

Can you read at a level that is adequate for your textbooks? Many college texts are at a grade 12 + reading level or higher. Below are some strategies that are being used by students who are successful in biology. YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL TOO!

1. Don’t read too fast. While you may be able to read fiction quickly or even skim over some parts, science texts need more concentration to get everything out of it.

2. Read carefully. These kinds of textbooks are rarely repetitive or overly wordy. Most of the information is relevant and needs to be remembered.

3. Tackle each chapter a few times. The first reading can be skimming before each class, looking at chapter objectives, main headings, tables, graphs, diagrams, and summaries. You will get a lot more out of the lecture if you are familiar with the topic. Read a second time after class but in more detail, learning and gaining understanding of each topic. The third time you go through the chapter, write down important terms, definitions, and main concepts. The more you review the more likely you are to recall.

4. As you read, talk to yourself and read out loud. Explain verbally what you are reading and make up examples to understand better. Also, hearing what you read helps clarify the information and can make a big difference in learning.

5. Terminology and symbols have specific meanings. As you come to new terms or concepts, cover the text and try to recite the ideas in your own words. Make a list of words you don’t know, especially words in bold type and write their definitions in your own words since you are more likely to remember them.

6. Study all diagrams, graphs and charts. They often summarize valuable information. Try to visualize them and be able to reproduce their content.

7. Write as you read. Be an active reader!

  • Underline or highlight important words or phrases.
  • Write summaries in margins or make lists of key points.
  • Write questions in margins that help you find important details to remember or if you need to have further clarification.

8. Answer any study questions at the end of each chapter. This is good practice for a test or exam.

9. Make up separate study sheets on all information that you will be tested on. Keep testing yourself by going over these notes and trying to recite all key points. This will let you know what you do remember and what you will have to review more.

10. Make flash cards for terminology, definitions, formulas, and important concepts. Form a study group or have someone quiz you until you know everything thoroughly.