How to Highlight a Textbook

It’s four a.m., and in five hours you’ve got a test on The Civil War. Not to worry, right? After all, you’re a decent student. You’ve kept up with your reading, took notes, highlighted relevant passages. Of course, last minute cramming never hurts, so you open your textbook up to shove facts and dates into your short-term memory, only to see a blinding beam of florescent yellow pages staring back at you. Have no fear, though, if you’re a victim of over highlighting, there’s no need to wait for the next miracle drug to cure your infection. Simply follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a highlighting master.

Tip One: Read First!
If possible, try to read the material once through without taking any notes at all. Simply familiarize yourself with the text, taking notice of the main points. Also, if your teacher was kind enough to include supplementary reading notes, use them as a guide. Chances are, the main points in the notes are what your teacher want you to take away from the reading.

Tip Two: Chapter Summaries
Most school textbooks contain helpful summaries at the end of the chapters. These summaries can be quite helpful if you read them before reading the main sections. Pay attention to study questions and key terms, too. The author put them there for a reason – find out why and your understanding of the text will improve greatly.

Tip Three: Headings and Subheadings
Everything you highlight in a particular chapter or section of a textbook should directly relate to the heading or subheading of that segment. So, if a section of the book you’re reading is under the heading “Reconstruction in the South,” you need to ask yourself, “Does this relate to the reconstruction of the south?” before you highlight.

Tip Four: Less is More
Don’t get all highlighter happy! Yes, it’s fun, and the colors are pretty, but a full page coated in yellow ink doesn’t help you much when it comes time to review your material. Your goal should be to highlight as little as possible, first. Then, when you’re done, reread your highlighted text. If there’s still something you don’t quite understand, reread that particular paragraph, and then highlight the areas that help to clarify. Remember, you can’t erase with a highlighter, so it’s a lot easier to go back and add more later on.

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