How to effectively skim a textbook

Reading Tutorial

How to effectively skim a textbook


Most courses have a main text that is used for lectures and class tasks. Many students find textbook reading time-consuming and unwieldy. This brief tutorial will help you to use the text’s layout to identify key ideas.

Sample Problem

Read chapter _____ and complete chapter questions.


Use the following process for previewing or skimming a textbook chapter:

In a notebook, convert each chapter heading into a question. For example: “Rules of Engagement” becomes “What are the Rules of Engagement”?
Repeat throughout the entire chapter. Leave space for the answers in your notebook.

Read all summaries, review all charts, diagrams, and new vocabulary or key words.
Summaries tell you what you should take away from the chapter at the minimum. Read each diagram and chart and make sure you understand the data. Charts and diagrams are efficient ways to convey complex information in a concise way.

Review each chapter heading question and scan the corresponding text for the answer. Write the answer in your own words in your notebook.
Repeat until you have completed the chapter.

Read through the questions and answers and review the charts and diagrams.

Determine if you have a good grasp of the chapter. If not, read the chapter questions at the end and skim the text for the answers. Write the questions and the answers in your notebook. Read all of the questions and answers together once you have recorded them all.

Finally, write a paragraph summary about the chapter. In five to seven sentences, describe the main idea and key points. This summary should be reviewed daily as it will cut down exam study time. Follow this entire process for any assigned chapter reading in any subject.

About The Author

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Trained by the founder of Kaplan while a high school sophomore. Held various tutoring jobs with Stanley H. Kaplan through high school and college:speed reading, TOEFL, Praxis, GRE, SAT - V. Recently, taught SAT - V classes for CCB School of Westchester; provided essay writing coaching privately, too...
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