Utilizing your textbooks

Stories - Book StoriesAs a nursing student, you are not expected to read the primary nursing textbook from cover to cover.

Although a majority of faculty will tell you, you need to know “everything” in the textbook, it is quite a daunting task to memorize an entire textbook.

You should not be expected to memorize your textbook and repeated attempts to do so will only add to your already increased level of frustration and anxiety.

Learn to adopt to the adage of, “Work smart, not hard.”


Utilizing a highlighter is a great strategy as long as you do not have a “rainbow” of colors.  A rainbow of colors is not a good thing.

  • No more than 20 to 30 percent of your textbook should be highlighted.
  • As you read the material, stop to organize the information in a format that will help you better understand and study the information.
  • Employ a basic system of highlighting headings and boldface in a contrast color initially before you start to read.
  • When you are perusing through the assigned chapter use your main color always keeping in mind that if you read and highlight at the same time it is easy to end up with a rainbow of colors throughout the entire chapter.

Another strategy is to learn to vary the color of a highlighter to break up the text. Select a specific highlighter color to match to a specific topic.

For example, use a yellow highlighter for information that is relevant to the gastrointestinal system or a pink highlighter for the cardiovascular system. Remember, the purpose of highlighting is to outline key information that will be useful when you go back to study for an exam.


If you do not find using highlighters help then consider annotating the textbook. Focus on the very same key concepts you would if you were using highlighters but instead if using a highlighter, learn to write your own paraphrased versions in the margins of the textbook.

By rewriting the information in your words will help you retain what you have read.

Color Coding Things by Test

A useful strategy in helping students prepare for exams is the use of color coding items by exams. Color coding your notes by using symbols. For example, use the positive symbol (+) for information you have mastered; a question mark (?) next to information or content you need to review and a negative (-) symbol for information or content you have yet to study.

The same color coding system can be used with your class notes.

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