How to widen your knowledge of any subject

by Anita Naik

One of the best ways to achieve a grade difference in any subject is to go beyond the curriculum. If you're stuck on how to widen your view of subjects, here's how to enhance your knowledge.

Students who can bring broader input to their exam essays and answers are more likely to achieve higher marks. This is because there are two elements needed for any question (1) an in-depth knowledge incorporating detailed evidence and (2) the ability to link to wider issues, topics or arguments that support your point of view.

It's only by reading beyond the curriculum that you can achieve the latter. However, the task can seem daunting alongside revision timetables and homework, so here's what will help you achieve your goals in an easier way.

Listen to more podcasts

There are multiple benefits of listening to podcasts. Firstly, you can listen as you work and secondly, it's a great way to hear a variety of experts in a given field give their opinion and critical analysis. Physics World for instance has everything from Quantum computing discussions to Black Hole Physics theories. Meanwhile, the history podcast Hardcore History has interesting episodes on various cataclysmic world events that could persuade you to rethink everything you thought you knew.

There are several podcast formats to delve into, from solo podcasts to interview podcasts, multi-host shows, roundtables, and the information podcast. You may be drawn to one format over another but listening to variations is an excellent way to expand your thinking about a subject and develop your own competing views.

Read the traditional media

Newspapers may feel old-school, but they are still a reliable and trusted way to update yourself on the news, Science, culture, art, history, politics and geography. Bear in mind that many publications and news sources have their own political slant, so help yourself by sticking to reputable sources such as the BBC, New York Times, and The Economist, to name but a few.

The BBC is the global standard-bearer for excellence in broadcast radio and TV journalism. At the same time, The New York Times has strict ethical standards of reporting, and The Economist produces a well-edited, factually accurate account of what's happening in the world.

Alongside this look at online magazines like The Atlantic, which has longer form articles informed by many top journalists with some great critical analysis, UnHerd is a British online magazine that UnHerd aims to push back against the herd mentality with new and bold thinking.

Watch more documentaries

For the best documentaries, look for investigative films that examine everything from historical events to climate change, the justice system and more. Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and YouTube are good sources for old and new documentaries on virtually any subject.

Thought-provoking documentaries include 13th - an in-depth analysis of how the United States prison system is a vehicle of institutionalized racism and inequality. Great insight from academics, activists, politicians, and men and women who have experienced incarceration. Cowspiracy, which reveals the environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet and offers a path to global sustainability and The Mind Explained - an illuminating series on everything from dreaming to anxiety disorders and how your brain works.

Follow thought leaders on Twitter and social media

Thought leaders are people with expertise and perspective on a particular subject or industry. Their opinions and analysis often offer unique ideas and innovation, and they are worth following if you want to widen your view of a theory or event. Follow them on Twitter for discussion pieces and their take on up-to-date events.

For Science, follow Neil deGrasse Tyson Astrophysicist or Brian Cox, Physicist For Maths, Steven Strogatz and Evelyn Lamb. For computing and tech, Kara Swisher and Andrew Ng and History Lucy Worsley.

For more information look at our posts on 10 Top Podcasts for students,6 motivating films for teens and 8 of the best non-fiction reads.