cats in the snow  Jan 27 2011 012It seems like every year my students use their textbooks less and less.

Teachers still hand out textbooks in September but then so many (I’m tempted to say MOST) teachers rarely assign readings or homework from them, instead supplying students with hand-outs, worksheets and powerpoints.

Commonly, students claim that their texts are “up in my bedroom somewhere,” never to be opened!

Yet textbooks can be wonderful tools for learning and for exam review.

Many of the newer ones include links to online tools such as outlines, summaries, tutorials, quizzes, and flash cards; they are definitely worth exploring!

And even the older texts are full of helpful resources, including lists of important vocabulary words, chapter summaries, step-by-step examples, tests, quizzes, essay questions, extra practice, and more.Here are some pointers for how to use textbooks for exam review:

  • Math / Chemistry /Physics: Go through each chapter and read each example of how to work a problem. Then, on paper (not just in your head), redo the problem yourself, glancing back at the text if necessary. Also, look for the “check-point” problems (the ones that give the answers either below or in the back of the text) and do those, too, and make sure you are checking your answers as you go. If you are incorrect, reread that part in the textbook and figure out your mistake! Make a note to see your teacher if you are still stumped.
  • All Sciences / Social Studies / HistoryRead the chapters! Yes, ALL of the chapters, and all of the words, including the captions, charts, graphs, and diagrams! Reading the textbook is a great way to get a refresher on what you covered in class, and it will provide a slightly different “slant” on the material, which is a GOOD thing (repetition plus multiple “angles” on the same material will make it stick in your head better).

Having trouble concentrating on your reading?

  • Stand up while you read. Create a podium by piling up your other textbooks.
  • Read out loud, with expression. Pretend you are standing at your podium and reading to an audience.
  • Pause periodically and let what you just read sink in. And take notes as you find important information. Don’t just plow on like a machine.
  • Read in chunks. Set a timer and switch subjects every 10-20 minutes to refresh your brain, and keep looping around from, say, chemistry to history to math, then around again.



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    Last reviewed: 24 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2014). The Textbook Is Still A Great Learning Tool. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2015, from




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