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How to Read Your Nursing Textbook Effectively

Get ready to learn how to read a textbook effectively! While you may have confidence in your reading skills, you need to level up your reading strategies for nursing textbooks.

Discover the best tips for note-taking and reading a nursing textbook so you can study, prepare for an exam, and recall information throughout nursing school.

How to read your textbook effectively and efficiently

book with stethoscope

Your textbook may seem like it’s from another planet, but you can use the following strategies to improve reading comprehension and retention. Let’s get into it. 

Tip 1: Read out loud 

Reading out loud helps improve memory and understanding of complicated topics. When you read out loud, you’re pairing written text (a visual) with your voice (an auditory source) and catching things you may have missed by just skimming and reading in your head. If your textbook is online and has a read-aloud feature, you can use that too.

Tip 2: Read the end of a chapter first

Most nursing textbooks have a summary and a set of challenge questions at the end of every chapter. While it may seem counterintuitive to read this first, it can provide you with a guide to follow as you read. Rather than focusing on every little detail, focus on these big-picture concepts as you go through the chapter.

Tip 3: Read in chunks

Your nursing textbook is most likely long and dense! If you find it overwhelming to sit through an entire assigned reading—don’t. Break reading assignments up into chunks, and take a break if you find a section challenging. When you’re ready, you can return to an assigned reading with a clear head and fresh eyes to re-read and grasp what you couldn’t before.

Tip 4: Read it more than once

If you only read textbook material once, you’re doing yourself a disservice! After your initial read, a forgetting curve begins, meaning you won’t be able to effectively recall the material as time passes. Revisit and read the chapter or text again to maximize recall. If you don’t have time to read all of it, try the next tip!

Tip 5: Pair reading with another study method

Re-reading the same material over and over again (more than 3 times) is not effective or stimulating for the brain! While reviewing your textbook is good, pair your reading with note-taking, flashcards, quizzes, and picture mnemonics for a fun and exciting way to review and recognize nursing facts and concepts. Try these active recall study methods to see which one works best for you.

How to take notes from a textbook 

Dotting the I's and crossing the T's

To learn how to study from a textbook effectively, you’ll need the following note-taking strategies. 

Tip 1: Highlight key themes and concepts

Interacting with your textbook is a great reading strategy. Grab your favorite colored highlighter and pick important themes and concepts you’d like to revisit or remember. This will help you pay close attention to what the text is trying to convey and select the most important information you need to know. And, if you like to color code, you can come back to information you have trouble understanding later!

Tip 2: Copy or bookmark diagrams, charts, and illustrations

These are in your nursing textbook for a reason. Grab an old receipt or sticky note to mark important illustrations. Images can help you visualize key concepts and understand data points. If you have room in your notes, try drawing the diagram or chart yourself. 

Tip 3: Paraphrase information

Re-writing your textbook word for word isn’t super helpful. To promote reading comprehension, paraphrase the section in your own words to familiarize yourself with the information. If you have keywords in the text that stand out to you, you can write those down too.

Tip 4: Create an outline 

You see those headings and subheadings in your textbook? Use them! They’re more than just for categorizing information in the chapter; they’re used to note key information you need to know. Formatting your notes with these headings will keep you organized and prepared to review important nursing facts. Don’t forget to pay attention to words in bold or italics. These can be handy keywords to have in your word bank for later.

Tip 5: Take notes from memory

Taking notes from memory is another way to test yourself on what you just read. Challenge yourself to read short chunks and close your textbook to make notes afterward. Then, you can revisit the text and notes to see what you missed and clean it up.

How you can maximize textbook retention with Picmonic

Picmonic is research proven to increase retention and boost test scores. As a visual mnemonic learning resource and study aid, nursing students can pair Picmonic with their textbook reading and go-to study methods to succeed in nursing school! If you’re just getting started, check out these must-reads for nursing students. We’ll talk about how to use them with Picmonic below.

Whether you have a lot of content to cover for an upcoming exam or are trying to test yourself with your assigned readings, here’s how to use Picmonic to maximize textbook retention.

First, you’ll need a Picmonic account! Sign up or log in to get started. Once you’re signed in to the Picmonic platform, look to the left-hand side of the Picmonic navigation and select Browse. Scroll down, and select the Books tab. Here, you’ll see a wide selection of nursing textbooks you may have from your nursing program.

picmonic book library

Find your textbook and select it! Once selected, you’ll have a complete view of your book’s chapters/units. Click Explore on your desired chapters to view, review, and learn associated Picmonics. 

picmonic book playlist

Picmonics are exactly what they sound like—picture mnemonics! We have memorable characters, unforgettable stories, and short, interactive videos to help you learn and retain information long-term.

Once you’ve learned all the nursing facts you need to know with fun, whacky Picmonics, click the three dots next to Explore and select Quiz. You’ll take a quiz with all the associated Picmonics within that unit! Or, if you’d like to share with a friend or have the link handy for later, select Share or Copy URL.

Need to come back to the unit later? Click those three dots next to Explore and add it to a playlist! It’s that easy. Studying with Picmonic simplifies the process and creates less stress with the amount of textbook reading you have to do. 

Ready to get started? Join today!

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