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Speed Reading Textbooks

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 5

University is expensive and time consuming and most student spend a lot of time reading textbooks in University - time that could be spent working a side job, taking another course, or even partying. With the right techniques and some practice you can learn to read textbooks significantly faster with increased comprehension.  Speed reading textbooks will improve your grades and the spill over effect is that you will be able to take tests faster.

Approach a textbook like a journey. Knowing where you are going makes the journey so much easier and avoids costly delays.

Speed Reading Requires Knowing Where You Are Headed
Don't Start at the Front of the Book

Most student crack a textbook and head to the first reading assignment. Wrong! Instead, head to the back of the textbook and find the Glossary. Read the Glossary from top to bottom several times. Learn all the terms that are new to you and learn the specific definitions applicable to the textbook of words that seem familiar. By doing this simple step you will be far ahead of the typical student who never notices the Glossary is even there.

Understanding the vocabulary is a big step toward comprehension but reading the Glossary will not only significantly increase your comprehension of the material, it will speed up your reading. You will not need to look up Glossary words while reading (or worse skip looking them up and not really understand what you are reading).

Check the Table of Contents Next

Review the Table of Contents to get an overview of the book. This simple step will help you understand the textbook's structure much better and speed up the time it takes to read the textbook.

Look for Text Boxes and Diagrams

Now you can turn to the first chapter but don't start reading yet. Look for visuals and text boxes that highlight important concepts in a few words. Checking out these features first saves time as you read because you will already understand the key points that the diagrams and text boxes are trying to pull out.

Read Subheadings and Conclusions First

Consider reading all the subheadings and the conclusion of the chapter first. Much like you would check a map to understand what the road looks like and where you are headed to, checking the chapter for its structure and conclusion tells you where the author is taking you.

Finally Read the Chapters

With the subheadings and conclusion read already, and a good understanding of the vocabulary used in the book you can speed through the chapter to gather the remaining information you need to master the test.

When reading pay particular attention to the first sentence and last sentence of each paragraph since they generally contain the most important information. Similarly the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph of each section are more important than the paragraphs in between. There are other speed reading techniques that can be applied to reading paragraphs of text.


These steps will vastly increase your comprehension of the chapter material and the whole textbook. By previewing the Glossary, Table of Contents and key chapter features you will be able to cover the reading assignments very quickly while actually improving your grades. 

With all your new found free time you can take extra courses, spend more time socializing or even get a part time job.  You'll also be able to walk out of tests before the other students finish confident in your grade - now won't that be sweet.

Additional Articles on Speed Reading

You can also speed through these other articles on general speed reading techniques like speed reading by increasing your field of vision and developing the skill of speed reading by reading upside down.



Dec 5, 2010 11:20pm
good tips, I read so much my eyes hurt. getting through the material faster can help keep you from getting bored.
Good job Thumbs up!!!
Dec 23, 2010 4:27am
Especially now that we read online so much, it really helps to speed up your reading speed.
Apr 26, 2011 5:45am
Your tips make so much sense. I am going to put your information to good use. Thanks for sharing it!
May 7, 2011 1:22pm
Hi I never knew that it's a good idea to read the glossary first. It does make sense to me though. Thanks for writing this article.
Dec 11, 2011 10:14pm
All the key concepts are going to be in the glossary. Understand what the book is talking about and the time to read it goes way down and the understanding level goes way up.
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