This method works great for:
- Business, history, psychology, philosophy and any other “conceptual” class.
- Filling out massive study guides when you don’t want to spend hours searching through the book to fill out the answers.
- Doing homework that requires you to read chapters of the book.
- Taking online tests, especially if they are timed.
- Taking in-class, open note tests.
This method is not so great for:
- Math, science and other STEM classes.
- Highly technical topics.
- In-class, closed note tests.
I won’t tell you what you should already know (that you should always get a digital textbook instead of a physical textbook so you can CTRL+F for answers), but I will tell you about the next evolution of this method.
Students slacking off and professors finding ways to force them to study is a constant cat and mouse game.
It always starts out with laptops being allowed in class. That is, until several people are taking “notes” at 300 words per minute while the professor is telling a story about his dog.
The professor usually lets that one slide, until the sudden deafening sound of “Hello! I’m going to tell you the secret to free, live cams…” echoes through the lecture hall while a red faced torrent downloader frantically tries to hit mute.
Professors aren’t just getting craftier at making you actually pay attention in class, they’re also becoming very effective at making you actually read the textbook. Most professors at mediocre schools give out study guides outlining 300 questions that might be on a 25 question test. Disguised as a favor, this massive “ungraded” homework assignment is given to the recent community college alumnus as an attempt to trick them into actually studying.
The first instinct of any lazy college senior in this situation is to immediately Google the questions hoping to find the answer. When that doesn’t work, they might use their digital copy of the textbook and CTRL+F for the answer.
Professors have caught on to this and they anticipate you will word search, especially with online tests. They will typically cripple CTRL+F attempts by rewording the questions to foil exact match searches. This forces the student to try searching for fragments of the question which often contain keywords used 1000+ times in the book. Some of the answers they will find, however many will be found more quickly by just reading the chapter.
For a while it seemed as if lazy students would actually have to study…. that is until digital textbooks evolved into these. Long story short, these books also allow you to do a “loose match” search. What’s that mean? Basically it’s an intelligent search engine for your text book similar to Google.
Suppose the question is:
“The three fundamentals of clinical research are…”
The professor, in an attempt to prevent you from using CTRL+F, reworded it as:
“The following are three essential steps in the clinical research process”
Attempting to word search this in a traditional PDF textbook would leave you frusteratedly tabbing between 382 instances of “clinical research”. The web based book manages to use intelligence by performing a loose match search:
Searching the above question causes the software to analyze the words not just for an exact match, but for sentences or paragraphs in the book where these words are found in close proximity to each other:
“three essential steps in the clinical research process”
Find: “three” + “steps” + “clinical research” in close proximity to each other.
and voila, you will usually find your answer.
YMMV with this method, but these books were a life saver for me in the classes I took, especially when filling out massive study guides and taking online open book tests. The professor often will time online exams to eliminate the efficiency of word searching, however using these books you can often make the cut with minimal studying. I routinely got A’s and B’s on timed open book quizzes and tests using this method.
Go here to see if you can find a copy of your book. Not all books have an “e” version, but if yours does it will show up after you click on the book. It will say something like “eTextbook”. If you know of other sites that offer something like this (or better) please comment below.
NOTE: I am NOT advocating cheating, or using a book when it isn’t allowed. This is simply a more efficient way to study with your textbook. Use common sense, if the test/homework isn’t open book then don’t use this!