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What is a Study Guide?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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A study guide is a handy resource for mastering material of various kinds. Guides come in many permutations and some are tailored to taking standardized or aptitude tests like the SAT or the CBEST. Others are produced with textbooks and may enhance study with additional questions and explanations of textbook material. There are a great number of informal non-commercial guides that are created by students, or helpful professors and teachers, to address specific material a class has covered. Each kind of guide presents opportunities to study material more in depth or to consider possible test expectations.

Some basic things a study guide of any type might include are questions pertaining to material, definitions, true/false sections, and sample problems. With problems, it’s always important to note these are conceptual examples. For example, people probably won’t see the exact same math problem with the same numbers on an actual test, but if they master concepts behind the problems, they should be able to solve it.

A search through any bookstore usually reveals a number of commercially produced study guide offerings that cover how to take standardized tests. Some of the most common standardized tests have numerous guides that give people information about the test structure and what type of questions they’ll encounter. There is often a difference between official and non-official guides. The companies or agencies that administer tests may produce official guides, or writers get permission from these agencies to write guides.

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An official study guide has advantages. It may feature real sample tests that most accurately reflect typical questions. Unofficial guides can be useful too, but if people are interested in only buying one guide, they should choose an official one, as it may be the most accurate. It’s also a good idea to check out any online resources of the testing agency because there can be free study guides or sample tests online too.

A lot of textbook writers produce textbook study guides, either written or in digital form, which may enhance studies. Whether or not students need these depends on how rigidly an instructor adheres to a book. If the book will be used minimally, buying an extra study guide may not be worth it, but some instructors will not only recommend but require them, in which cases students should probably obtain one.

Instructors or students can produce their study guides by reviewing material in a book or in class notes and developing a set of questions and answers to key problems that are likely to be addressed in testing. Students who create a study guide can be very well served because the act of creation means thinking about material learned that was important. Afterwards, using the guide to study adds an additional layer as students master the material. Professors may also give students review questions or review material to study for things like midterms and finals. Learning the information that the teacher suggests is important is probably vital to earn good grades.

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farru
Post 4

what is the difference between study material and a text book?

cmsmith10
Post 2

@waterhopper: That is great advice. I am taking some college courses and that is exactly what I do. I take the study guide and type the questions up differently and then my husband calls them out to me in whatever order he sees fit!

It really works and the material usually sticks with you if you take the time to rewrite the questions.

WaterHopper
Post 1

I am a substitute teacher and have been for about 7 years. I very often hear students talking about wanting study guides for tests. I had three students who said that they spent hours studying their study guide and still made a bad grade on the test. I wanted to emphasize that a study guide is a great tool but only if used correctly.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when using a study guide is that they get tunnel vision. They study word for word what is on that guide, usually memorizing it. Teachers sometimes reword questions just to make sure that the student knows the material. This throws the ones that memorize the questions off.

Only use a study guide as a tool, not as an exact science. Reword the questions on your study guide and put them in a different order. Then, get someone to call them out to you in random order to make sure that you know the material.

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