Study Aids

Pre-Reading Study Aids: You may make the mistake of just jumping in and reading a chapter from beginning to end. It’s great you want to get started, but starting smart is just as important. Take a few minutes to get the "lay of the land" before you start to read. You’ll learn faster and recall information better if you’ve first created a framework into which to place it. Before you start to read check out the following:

  • Textbook’s Title - The title describes what the whole book is about or how the author will approach the topic. Knowing the title of your text will give you some idea as to its contents.
  • Table of Contents - This study aid lists all of the main topics of the text. It will help you to understand the text’s organization and the relationships between the different sections. It will also give you a map of where the class is going. If your professor uses a different order of chapters make certain you understand why.
  • Chapter Titles - Chapter titles provide useful information about the contents of the chapter you are reading and give you insight into the detailed information you will find in each chapter. Refer to the table of contents and to your previous lecture notes to understand how this topic relates to what has gone before. Each chapter tends to build on the one after that, so you have to know the first before you can understand the next.
  • Chapter Preview, Outline, or Objectives - Most textbooks now provide you with a list of the big ideas within the topic of the chapter. Previews will give you an understanding of how the chapter is organized and the main topics covered in the chapter. Objectives will help you learn what the author identifies as important in the chapter and what the author thinks you should carry away from the reading. Outlines provide you with a framework into which you can place the information you’ll take from the chapter.
  • Review Questions - It is helpful to look at the review questions prior to reading because lots of helpful preliminary information can be gathered from the end of the chapter materials. These will help you identify the important information so you can read with a purpose: answering the questions they will be asking.
  • Chapter Summary - Reading the chapter summary prior to reading the chapter will give you some idea as to the type of information you should be finding as you read. It may appear at the beginning or end of the chapter. The summary should never be the only part of the chapter you read.

Aids to Use During Reading: You may feel you’ve already done a lot of work just getting ready to study. It’s just the first step. Take a few seconds and pat yourself on the back, and now you’re ready to read the chapter. Read in small sections. Readings are organized in a logical way. Almost all textbooks published today take advantage of the latest understanding about how students learn best and incorporate this into their textbooks. As you read, continue to pay attention to the textbook’s in-text and out-text educational aids:

  • Web-Based Material - Many textbooks have web addresses where supplementary material can be found. These websites can include additional text, extra problems and exercises, streaming videos and soundtracks, designed to help the material become more meaningful.
  • Supplementary Material - Many textbooks are published with supplementary material such as workbooks, extra readings, and additional sample problems. Some also come with CD-ROMs that have quizzes and study aids for your assistance.
  • Headings - Using headings from your chapter helps you make the necessary connections between what you’ve read and what you’re about to read. This is called reading with a purpose, which is perhaps the single most important aid to understanding. Have a purpose more immediate than making a grade. Look for information that may be useful in your day-to-day conversations, personal life or future career.
  • Marginal Notes – It’s important to use both marginal notes provided by the texts publisher and marginal notes you make for yourself. Marginal notes can include definitions, questions you have about the reading, connections with other texts you are reading, or notes to yourself about other references to use. They are provided by the text publishers to clarify and to identify other critical issues.
  • Review Questions - As you read the chapter, think about the review question your author has provided at the end of the chapter or make up your own from the headings. These will help you organize your thinking, remember what you are reading, and concentrate on the material at hand.
  • Graphics: Charts, Diagrams, and Pictures - These are used extensively in most textbooks. It is important to "read" graphics by looking at the components and recognizing how they are related to the text and understanding what information they add to what you’re reading within the chapter.
  • List of Key Terms - Using lists of key terms allows you to look up their definitions before reading so you understand what you are reading. You can also write definitions for each of these terms as you read about them. Don’t read over words or key terms without looking them up. Key terms are often good candidates for test questions so be sure to expand your vocabulary with them. 
  • Glossary - Use the Glossary to help find the definition of words and the intended meaning within the textbook. This is an excellent resource when reading highly technical language. Definitions of key technical words are critical to mastering any discipline and should be a top priority for both your reading and your education.
  • Appendix - These can be used to help understand the meaning of the text. Often graphics, special descriptions of a technique, tables to help you work exercises in the text, and other aids can be found in an appendix. Material included in an appendix may be either an additional explanation or review necessary for understanding the chapter, if so make certain you read it.
  • Index - Many times words or topics in a text are defined or explained in another part of the text. The index will help you to locate where else this material is discussed. This will help you arrive at a better understanding of the text. It can also help you locate an obscure or interesting topic elsewhere in the textbook. The index is very helpful in reviewing your notes or preparing for tests especially if you find items not immediately clear to you, you can then look them up.

Post-Reading Study Aids: You’ve read the chapter, but don’t quit now. This is where the real learning can take place. After you read the chapter you want to make sure you have captured an understanding of what you have studied. You can do this by using:

  • Chapter Summaries - It is important to write your own summary once you have read a chapter. Read your summary and the text summary and compare the two. Writing your own summary and reading your text summary is a necessary review, which will consolidate your learning, and it can help you organize your thinking and recognize the relationships among the main ideas.
  • Review Questions- Review questions are there for a purpose. Try to answer them. Review questions come both from the book and from the professor. Answering review questions lets you test your knowledge about what you have just read. It gives you a chance to review the answers before continuing on to the next chapter and allow you to make connections to the new information you are reading.
  • Suggested Readings or References - Looking at lists of other readings or references can aid in your understanding of the material. This is especially true if you are having trouble understanding the particular text you are reading. Reading a similar text by another author sometimes helps you to understand.

Create Your Own Study Aids: Creating your own study aids can be more helpful than using study aids provided by your textbook, ancillary websites, or even by your professor. Creating your own study aids requires you to review the material and process the information more thoroughly than you otherwise would. Here are some standard techniques:

  • Make lists and memorize them. Some professors especially emphasize their own lists on tests. 
  • Take notes both in class and while you read. This way you have a reference to all the information you are encountering. Good note taking forces you to understand and organize the material and provides an excellent stimulus to your memory when you go back over them.
  • Create diagrams and charts for the information you are presented to help you see it in a different light. Diagrams and charts can help you to understand complex relationships between ideas.
  • Create summary sheets to help you review the material you have just read or heard. Put the information "in your own words" to help you make the information more memorable and relevant because it requires you to understand it. Create summary sheets of notes and textbook information to enhance your learning. Reviewing the material will be more effective from your processed summaries than from the raw notes.
  • Underline or highlight your text and notes to help you identify and remember important material and to helps you locate specific information you might need to find. Be careful that you highlight no more than one sentence per paragraph as excessive highlighting is ineffective.
  • Make up and use acronyms to make memorization easier.
  • Make flash cards with the information to be memorized on the back and a stimulus question on the front.
  • Look for available campus resources:
    • Attend group review sessions provided by the course instructor or department
    • Compare notes with other students in your class
    • Register for SLA classes
    • Study with a small group of students
  • Build relationships with your professors. They are great resources for explaining material. Ask your professor about workbooks, supplementary readings, and other books which may have extra problem sets.
  • Acquaint yourself with FLITE library resources and Internet resources which may be helpful.
  • Get a tutor if needed. Free Tutoring is available at the academic Support Center (591-3543). Sign up for a tutor before you fall behind too far.
  • Review your course syllabus. It should highlight class objectives and when assignments are due.

Bottom line – you are in control of the choices you make for your own academic success. Take advantage of all Ferris State University has to offer. You might just surprise yourself.


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