It’s Study Time! How to Take Notes From a Textbook the Right Way

how to take notes from a textbook

Did you know that you must learn how to take notes from a textbook the right way if you want to soak up all of the information? Although we wish it weren’t true, there is a right and wrong way to take notes. If you’re looking to ace that up and coming test, then you’ll need to know how to take notes from your textbook the right way.

If you weren’t taught in high school the proper way to take notes, then college might become overwhelming as many of your courses will require you to take well-written notes. Luckily, we’re here to help! Although not everyone takes notes the same way or has the same style of learning and remembering key facts, there are a few tips that everyone should follow when taking notes.

Continue reading below for several ways to ensure that you’re taking notes correctly!

Preview Chapters

The first thing that you’ll want to do is preview the chapters that you’ll be taking notes on. What is your test or quiz going to be on? Preview those chapters by flipping through the pages and looking at the chapter headings and subheadings. 

Pay attention to the words in bold or underline. All of this information is essential if you want to grasp a general idea of what you’re about to read. Be sure to look at all of the pictures, captions, and other information such as charts or graphs. 

These are all just as important as the headings and vocabulary words and are often overlooked, yet they can be a big factor in helping you understand the text. When you get to the end of the text, there will most likely be a section of questions to see what you learned. 

Pay attention to these questions as these are the main concepts that you should pick up on during your read. Know what the questions are ahead of time and you should have no problem answering them after reading the text.

Create an Outline

You should now create an outline. Take all of those important concepts that you pulled from your review and use them as the bones of your outline. There are a few different ways to create an outline, so be sure to find a way that works best for you. 

You can use the Cornell notes way of outlining or any other form of outlining that helps you stay organized the best. As you read through each section of your text, fill in the key information under it’s heading in your outline. After you finish reading a section, a good tip is to close your text and then pull information from your memory.

Filling out your outline from your memory is a great way to help you remember that information when it’s test time. Open the text back up and be sure to correct any errors you may have made and fill in any missing information as well. All bolded or underlined words for that section should be in your notes.

When done, continue on to the next section and repeat.

Break Down Each Section

Be sure to read one section at a time. You don’t want to read an entire chapter and then go back and try to remember what was most important in each section. Reading the entire chapter at once without breaking it down into section note taking also makes it harder to store all of the valuable information in your memory. 

If you read section by section, taking notes for each as you go, you’ll grasp the concept of each section helping you understand the next section even more. 

Use Visuals and Colors as Needed

If you hear the word outline and you immediately think, “boring,” then you’re in for a treat. Just because you’re creating an outline doesn’t mean it has to be dull. As mentioned before, everyone learns in a different way and the way you take notes should work well for you.

If you learn best by looking at visuals or color-coordinated notes, then go for it. Never hesitate to add visuals into your outlines such as charts, graphs, or different highlighter colors. 

Do keep in mind that when using highlighters, you want to only highlight the keywords from your notes. When using different colors, be sure that each color stands for a specific meaning such as yellow is for vocabulary words and pink is for important people.

Pull Important Details

Always pull the important details when taking notes. Writing down too much can actually set you back. You only want to take the most important information from the text for your notes. 

You’ll need to find a balance between taking too little and too many notes. To help find this balance, only focus on the information that you think is essential for passing your test. 

Use Annotations

Annotations are a wonderful way to help you take great notes. Your annotations can be written on the side of your notes or on sticky notes that are then stuck to the top of your notes. Your annotations can include different connections that you made between two concepts while reading, questions you want to ask your professor, or something else. 

You Now Know How to Take Notes from a Textbook!

After reading through this guide, we now hope that you know how to take notes from a textbook! Remember, you need to do what works best for you, so if something doesn’t seem to be helping you remember, then switch it up! Just keep these tips in mind to guide you along the way!

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College Organization Tips to Keep Students on Track and Stress-Free

It’s scary to think that 3 out of 4 students report feeling stressed. College is supposed to be the best time of your life!

You might think that cutting back on sleep is the best way to fit everything in. It’s easy to fall back on a diet of coffee and energy drinks.

But with a little planning, you can actually find extra time you didn’t know you had.

Read on to learn our best college organization tips.

1. Learn to Prioritize

The best way to make sure you manage to fit everything in is to learn to prioritize. The sad fact is, you can’t possibly do everything.

But you can do more with your time than you think. All you need is a plan of how you’re going to spend your time.

Sit down for an hour on a Sunday evening to plan to week ahead. You can even invite your friends and have a group planning session.

Or use it as an excuse for some ‘me’ time. Light some candles, make a mug of your favorite drink, and sit down with your planner.

If you’re an artistic person, you might want to try keeping a bullet journal.

Check out The High Performance Planner for inspiration.

Block in your classes first, then add your shifts at work if you have a job. Next add social engagements and other commitments. These will change from week to week.

Now you can use half of the remaining time for assignments and studying. Devote the other half to exercise and down time.

If you get a call from a friend to do something and it falls during a study period? It’s up to you to decide how important that social event is.

You’re allowed to say no!

2. Use Technology for Your To-Do List

You probably find yourself getting stressed or anxious because you’re trying to remember everything. Let technology do the heavy lifting for you.

Choose an app to handle your to-do list. Todoist and Any.do are popular choices that work across devices.

Or try out Google Keep for a simple and free option. Add tick boxes to any note and turn your note into a checklist.

Set up the next week’s list during your Sunday planning session. If something is rolled across your to-do list for a week or two, decide if it’s important enough to keep on the list.

If it is, work out why you’re not doing it straight away.

3. Cut Down Distractions

Even the best willpower in the world won’t stop you from getting distracted. Put away your smartphone and close down all those browser tabs.

If that doesn’t work, try putting your laptop into flight mode so you can’t access the internet. Use a productivity app like Forest that rewards you for getting into the zone.

By cutting down distractions, you’re increasing how much work you can get done in a study session. Say you spend half of a two-hour study period browsing Facebook.

That means you need to do two of those study periods just to do two hours of work. But by cutting out the browsing, you can do it all in one sitting.

No one expects you to work for two hours solid. Try the Pomodoro technique to improve your productivity.

4. Set Your Own Deadlines

One of the reasons why students get so flustered is that they use the deadlines set by their tutor. But all it takes to throw you off track is a computer malfunction or a migraine.

So take the deadline you’ve been set and move it by a week. If you finish it by your deadline, you can submit early and have a more relaxing week.

But if something goes wrong or there’s an emergency, you’ve got the flexibility in your schedule to handle it.

Make sure your tutor knows if you’re struggling. There is help available if you ask for it.

5. Avoid Multi-Tasking

No one can actually do multiple things at once. If you try, all you’re doing is quickly jumping between tasks.

That means you never enter the flow state that’s required to make work easy. You’re interrupting yourself by switching from one task to another.

Instead, stay organized by sticking to one task at a time. You might think this will slow you down. But you’ll end up getting each task finished faster.

If you really can’t avoid multi-tasking, do the shortest tasks first. This gets them out of the way and helps you to avoid the temptation to multi-task.

It also gives you a sense of achievement and momentum which helps with the bigger activities.

A great book that can help you improve your productivity is Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

6. Stay Tidy

A simple way to stay organized is to stay tidy. Otherwise how long do you spend looking for something among the clutter?

Create a filing system for paperwork. Or scan receipts and other documents so you can find them in digital format. Tagging documents makes them easier to find using the search function.

Cut through your clutter to make it easier to find things quickly. If you don’t need something, donate it or sell it to make space.

7. Keep Your Notes Organized

Do you use a single notebook to keep all of your notes in? If you do that across subjects, it becomes difficult to keep track of everything.

It’s even worse if you try to work on loose sheets of paper. They quickly fall out of order and you waste time trying to make sense of them.

Instead, keep a notebook for each subject. Label them so you can find the contents.

If you work digitally, keep a separate notebook in Evernote, or a separate document in Google Docs. That way, you can always find what you’re looking for.

Which of These College Organization Tips Will You Try?

We hope that you’ll give these college organization tips a try. They’ll make your life run more smoothly so you’ll get more out of your time at college.

With a little bit of planning, you’ll soon get into the swing of managing your workload with your social life.

Why not check out our rentals page for more excellent books about productivity?