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The Best Online Study Guides for Better Grades

Updated on July 17, 2017
Stacie L profile image

Stacie L has been an educator for many years and likes to share her experiences and advice.

Be Social while studying

What is the most important aspect of high school students, besides grades; they all desire to be popular and have a social life. Almost every teenager is posting on at least 5 social sites, multiple times a day. Even homeschoolers want to stay in touch, while gaining valuable help with online study guides.

Study guides have been around for years, starting with Cliffs Notes. Now others are all online to help students from middle school to college with tests preparation, study techniques, book reports, social media and much more.It is essential for young men and women to have access to information to get ahead.

According to USA Today, students are using technology to study for tests. It seems books are passe' and they are now being uploaded to the all mighty internet, where kids live.

Adult writers and researchers can benefit from online study guides

School age and college students all share something in common; they all want to improve their grades. Cliff's Notes has been around for many years; before the internet provided so much information to learners. Students have a wealth of information on the internet today so weeding through that is a chore in itself. Home schooled students can also gain valuable insight and information from these online help sites.

The new guides are more than reviews; some are interactive and provide question and answer sessions, practice in essay writing and grammar review. The online study websites can now act as the teacher and provide lessons to home- schooled as well as in school students. The homework sessions will be less of a nightmare for frazzled parents as well. Let's face it, if the student is frustrated and doesn't understand the material, then they may become turned off to learning and so more problems will arise. Those who research and write online will also find some benefit to using these online study guides.Book reviewers will find a wealth of information that will make their job easier. Some may claim that using these sites are a form a cheating - you must decide for yourself.

Interactive study guides

Here is a brief review of some study guide websites.

Cliffs Notes Interactive study site

Cliff's Notes This is the granddaddy of the modern study guides and spawned a huge industry for the education field. Started in 1958 by Clifton Keith Hillegass, and began with 16 Shakespeare study guides. Now there are guides for almost every subject and on the internet website. Learning aids such as Cliff's Notes has provided students with some insights into literary works that were a bit overwhelming for their understanding. The website carries over 300 titles of literature, writing help, foreign languages, math practice, science, test prep, college advice, and a study break.

The best part of the website is that all this help is free! Anyone can visit a subject area and practice lessons in writing, grammar, learn French or Spanish, practice calculus, and take a study break with entertaining games. I wish this was around when I was a student.

Sparks Notes Interactive learning and study guide

The Spark Notes website motto is “when your books and teachers don't make sense, we do,” seems to be an edgier version of Cliff's Notes. It provides help in most of the same subjects as Cliff's Notes and more. There are two interesting headings titled “No Fear Shakespeare” and“No Fear Literature.” The Shakespeare classics are put side by side with modern language translations so students can easily understand and relate to what William was actually talking about. The other “No Fear Literature” has a similar approach to other literary works such as The Adventures Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter, and Beowulf. This could be very helpful for reluctant readers and makes the work more relevant, so anything that will keep a student's interest is a tremendous aid. There is also a social component to this website called Sparklife. Students can connect through music, movie and book reviews, tests your student personality and an Advice column featuring a cartoon Auntie Sparks.

Monarch Notes


Monarch Notes has been around for many years and reviews only children's and young adults literary works. Some of the book titles include classics such as Tom Sawyer, The Grapes of Wrath, and Tolkien's, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Each guide contains the author's biography, their complete body of works, critical analysis and interpretation of the works. The notes also provide questions and answers, suggested readings and annotated biographies. This is a cut and dry material without the social aspects so be prepared for serious reading.

They do not have their own website but are included in many sites and on Amazon.com where a student can obtain the notes on CD's. Many teachers use these CD's to plan lessons so it would be a good choice for the tutors and home schoolers as well.

Book Notes

Giant search resource

Book Notes claims to be the largest and original literature guide on the internet. They track down literary notes, book summaries, study guides and notes from all the other guide sites and then some. The main sites they obtain information from is Cliff's Notes, Spark Notes, Wikisummaries, BookRags, Pink Monkey, Barrons, Novel Guide, Book Wolf, ClassicNotes, and Schmoop. With 25,000 books and over 28,000 resources indexed, this is the most complete website guide I have seen. It is better than many library collections.

This is strictly about literature reviews, so don't look for math help or grammar assistance here. There is a search box on the top of the website page that a visitor can find information by author or title. http://www.freebooknotes.com/

Cliffs Notes

Summary of online study guides and their benefits

Interactive and non interactive

Whether you are a middle school, high school, college student or online writer, these study guides will be a great benefit. Students can interact academically and socially on most of the sites mentioned. This is a good option for those who are home schooled.

So these are the main players in the educational study guide field today. The longest running main literature review site is Monarch Notes, but information on their origins is scarce. The company does not give extra help in any other areas.

Cliff's Notes is the most popular study guide and has an online website that is interactive. Parents trust this company and they have a great reputation. Since their beginnings in literary reviews, they also provide study guides in almost every subject for young adults and early college subjects. It is the most popular study guide and has an online website that is interactive. Parents trust this company and they have a great reputation. Since their beginnings in literary reviews, they also provide study guides in almost every subject for young adults and early college subjects.

One of the newest and freshest sites for young people on the internet is SparkNotes. It's a cross between a social site and school. You can find every subject and translations of the classics into today’s language in their "No Fear Shakespeare" and "No Fear Literature" department. I like this aspect very much since it will help keep students attention longer and help them to relate to the story.

Book Notes is a giant directory of other review and study sites. It provides the sources for all literary book reviews and summaries and looks impressive.

Scmoops is another online guide that is very entertaining with cartoons and modern day language that makes the material easy to understand.

I like this aspect very much since it will help keep students attention longer and help them to relate to the story.

Adults need to stay involved in young people's education


Adults in young people's lives must be vigilant and not let the internet do their work. We need to develop student's thinking skills and not just fulfill an assignment. There are other lesser known but just as good study guides listed on the websites such as Pink Monkey, Clip Notes, Schmoops, and Gradesaver. I must admit that I used Schmoops with a homebound high school senior when reading Shakespear's Hamlet. It was a great time saver and they presented the material in modern day American English. I don't think we would have been able to finish the assignments and write a research paper without it.

I'm in favor of students and home-schoolers having sites to help them achieve their academic goals. I don't want them to rely on these sites so there is a fine line between helping and harming. Parents still need to monitor what their children are doing and where they obtain information. It's easy to copy information and write a report but a different story to understand the information and interpret it. And students should be aware of thus one fact; teachers have plagiarism websites to check their work!

Are Books Obsolete?

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© 2017 Stacie L

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