Textbook Supplements to Help You Be a Better Student

By Victoria Robertson on January 21, 2019

When it comes to being a good student, a little more is required of you than simply completing your assigned work, completing your textbook readings and attending class throughout the semester. While those are all important elements, it’s the supplemental resources that really help you become a better student.

Simply completing assigned textbook readings isn’t enough, and oftentimes won’t teach you what’s most important for you to be learning. In addition, many students don’t actually retain the information that they read in a textbook, as it’s a rather dry and monotonous read, in most cases.

For that reason, looking beyond the textbook in each of your courses is in your best interest, academically speaking. Supplemental resources not only give you more insight into what you are learning, but they may actually help you understand it better.

So what are the best textbook supplements to help set you apart from the rest of the student body?

Here are 10 textbook supplements to help you be a better student.

Photo Via: Pixabay.com

1. Study Guide

When it comes to textbook supplements, one of the most effective is the study guide. A study guide is essentially a manner in which you store important information obtained from your lectures and readings to return to in order to study it later on. While many students simply create a study guide prior to a test or quiz as a method of studying, it’s important to actually use this method throughout the semester as a supplemental resource.

In this way, you are not only gathering all of the information you’re going to need to study later on, but you are also retaining more information, as you’re actively thinking about important items as they come up in the course. This also provides you with an opportunity to ask your professor questions as you have them, which prevents confusion later on in the semester.

Basically, the creation of a study guide is a supplemental resource that is meant to prepare you for any tests and quizzes that will arise over the course of the semester, thus improving your grades and overall preparedness.

Study guides can be created in a variety of ways, but many students prefer to write down the answers by hand, as this typically helps in terms of information retention.

2. Lecture Outlines

Many students make the mistake of not attending lectures. As should be considered common sense, attending lectures is very important to your grades, as you are typically provided with information in a lecture that you wouldn’t be from simply reading the assigned readings and completing the assigned homework.

That being said, one of the most important items related to lectures is the lecture outline provided to you by your professor. And while it’s true that many professors don’t hand out physical copies of their lectures, they will typically use a powerpoint or similar platform through which you can write your own notes. Otherwise, you can simply write down the important details they are providing to you orally.

Taking notes when attending lecture is extremely important, as it provides you with extra information that may clarify, elaborate on or explain the information you’re gathering from your homework assignments, which helps you to perform better on tests and quizzes in the long run.

Infographic by Victoria Robertson

3. Workbooks

While this may not always be an option that’s available to you depending on the class you are taking, using a workbook as a textbook supplement is extremely helpful.

This would be most relevant to those involved in math related classes, but there are also some English and history courses that utilize workbooks to test your knowledge as you read the textbook.

While this sounds like busy work, and typically, such homework isn’t assigned, this is a great way to ensure you are retaining the information that you are reading and to put it in practice. For math specifically, practice problems are essential to understanding the content of the course. For English-specific classes, such workbooks help you to think creatively about the content of the book you’ve just read, allowing you to create more elaborate and detailed essays throughout the course of the semester.

4. Flashcards

Another important study technique that students often wait until the last minute to create, flashcards are actually another item that’s fantastic to create as you go over the semester, as they provide you with more detail and study opportunities throughout the semester.

When you think about it, flashcards are created solely for the purpose of studying the material so that you understand it. In creating these flashcards throughout the semester, you are studying the information you are learning as you go as well as building a database of information that you can use to study for midterms or finals later on in the semester.

Plus, this is information that you will be able to refer back to in future courses, especially if your courses build upon one another or utilize the same information taught in a past course.

5. Articles

It may sound weird that a good textbook supplement is actually another reading related item, but articles are a fantastic resource that helps to elaborate on the content and context of the course you are in.

For instance, if you are in a science course, it can be helpful to research academic articles related to a specific topic you would like to learn more about outside of the classroom. This not only provides you real-world context, but it also helps to clarify any questions you may have on course content.

Articles are additional reading and can be tedious as such, but in the long run, you’re going to retain a lot more information and understand the content of the course more fully than you would have without reading the extra articles.

Some professors may assign such articles, some may require you to research the topics you need more details on by yourself. Either way, it’s worth the time and effort put in, as articles are fantastic supplemental resources for you.

6. Powerpoints

Many professors give lectures through powerpoint, though they may or may not make said powerpoint available to the class. If they do, you definitely want to utilize that resource. If they don’t, you want to take vigorous and elaborate notes to compensate for it.

However, on your end, the creation of a powerpoint presentation denotes a strong understanding of the topic at hand, which can help you as a study and retention tactic throughout the course.

Creating a powerpoint is relatively easy, not at all time-consuming and can provide you with a method for tracking the information you know as well as the information you may not be as familiar with.

Similar to notecards, when creating a powerpoint, you are breaking down topics and grouping them based on your knowledge of them. Through this process, you will learn which topics you are more familiar with and which topics you need to study in more detail.

7. Optional Readings

As previously mentioned with articles as textbook supplements, optional readings are, in general, great additions to your overall study routine.

There are many professors that will assign optional readings throughout the course. In those cases, don’t pass up on that opportunity. While it is extra work and can be very time-consuming, these readings are typically assigned because they provide you with more information than your typical reading assignments would.

In this way, you are setting yourself ahead of the game by performing any and all optional reading assignments.

If your professor doesn’t regularly assign these, you can always research supplemental readings on your own or even ask your professor for any recommendations throughout the semester. They will appreciate the initiative and you will be better off for it!

Photo Via: Pixabay.com

8. Take-Home Tests and Quizzes

No, it’s not exactly what you want to be assigned as a student, but when it comes to textbook supplements, you don’t get much better than take-home tests and quizzes.

Your professor may assign them or he/she may not, but either way, this is something that you can do on your own to get some extra studying under your belt. Take-home tests and quizzes require a significant amount of research on your end and force you to actively think about the content of the course in detail.

This way, you are thinking logically about the course content in a manner that prepares you for future tests and quizzes in class, while also retaining more information as you’re able to research and synthesize everything in your own words.

9. Socratic Seminars

For those of you that have taken English course, you’re more likely to be familiar with this term. A Socratic seminar is essentially a group in which everyone contributes to a conversation about a specific topic.

For instance, think of a book club. A book club is essentially a Socratic seminar, as everyone performs the reading and then meets to discuss the content of the book as well as any major themes and/or feelings they have from the text.

A Socratic seminar is a great way to force you to think about a topic in great detail, but it also allows you to listen to the views of others, which can inform and mold your opinion in ways that strengthen it immensely.

Again, performing a Socratic seminar requires a group of people that are studying the same topic, so you may need to gather classmates as willing participants, but once you have a group together, everyone will be walking out more informed than they went in.

10. Dissertations

Last, but definitely not least, there is the dissertation. While writing one is certainly a great supplemental resource, as it requires a detailed and full understanding of the topic at hand, dissertations take a lot of work and aren’t as relevant to undergraduate work.

That being said, as an undergraduate, you can read the dissertations of others on topics you are studying, right now. Most universities have a database of all dissertations that is available for you to search. This database would include an exhaustive list of all dissertations, many of which will be relevant to a variety of topics you are researching in your course.

Reading the dissertation of another student is a great textbook supplement, as they will provide you extreme and knowledgeable detail about a topic that you may not be familiar with. And once you’ve completed that reading, you will have so much information on one topic that you will feel like a subject matter expert on the topic simply because you read someone else’s work.

This method is fantastic, especially for items in a course you aren’t familiar with, as you will walk away with so much knowledge you’ll feel like the expert on the topic.

Again, being a good student is one thing, as it’s easy enough to attend lectures, complete assigned work and stay on top of your textbook readings, for the most part at least. But outside of that, what more can you be doing to really become a better student? These supplemental materials can certainly help get you started, at the very least.

Start with these 10 textbook supplements to help you be a better student, as they are a good start to your academic success. But beyond them even, take a look at what you are learning and which resources would be helpful to your academic performance as well. Textbook supplements are essential to your learning, so implementing them sooner rather than later will show in your GPA.

And again, the supplements that you use will largely depend upon your major and class choices, but, for the most part, these supplemental materials are universally useful and attainable, no matter the class you are in.

So gather your materials, prepare yourself for the year ahead and get to studying, because in order to become a good student, you’re going to need every resource available to you!

Good luck everyone!

Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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