Three Elements that Make the Textbook Essential

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If today’s university scholars met their ancestors, they’d need a translator. Little more than a generation ago, students still hand-wrote papers. Few owned word processors, much less personal computers, and the laptop was a thing of science fiction. If research was necessary, it happened in a library.

The web has revolutionized the way humans learn. But no technological advance has ever been able to trounce the common denominator that remains critical to success in any college course: the textbook.

Textbooks Are Necessary

A textbook is essential from the first day of class to the night before the final exam. The extent to which it’s used may vary by individual professor, but each will expect some or all of an assigned text to be read.

Given limited hours and tight schedules, instructors don’t have time to deliver all the necessary information on a topic in the course of one semester. Textbooks contain answers to questions that may not have been asked in class, but will be asked on an exam. For instance, a professor requests that students read a chapter detailing the events of an entire war, but in class discusses only the finer points of one battle. At exam time, there is no greater woe for a student than a comprehensive essay question devoted to a text he didn’t read.

Textbooks Are Helpful

Strategies exist to maximize study. Time management is first. Ten minutes of careful reading per night are exponentially more effective than six hours of cramming on the eve of a test. One tip for internalizing subject matter is to finish with five minutes of freestyle writing, restating a chapter’s main points or themes.

The highlighter is another ally. For the visual learner, highlighted facts can jump-start memory and aid in quick review later. Marking text is particularly useful in classes that rely heavily on discussion. A student who comes prepared for debate is more likely to be viewed favorably by an instructor who expects participation.

Textbooks Are Accessible

In that same hypothetical conversation between generations, contemporary undergraduates could also impress their ancestors with the 21st century notion of accessibility. Today’s texts aren’t just for the elite: students can now rent textbooks, or purchase them new for resale later.

New, used, rented or resold, the textbook is the secret to better grades, better comprehension and better study habits. Few doubt that technology is one of humanity’s greatest advantages. But a wise university student knows that even today, a sterling GPA is obtained in just one way - by the book.

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