Hello again! I hope you had a merry Christmas. 🙂 I am still on winter break, but I have been working on my study schedule for my upcoming class, HSF (Human Structure Function). As I was deciding what to read/study on which days, I had to work through the question of whether I would take the time to read the textbooks (or if I would simply study the lecture slides we were given). Whether or not it is beneficial (time-wise) to read for a course differs between people and, I believe, differs between courses. It also depends on how much study time you have/make time for.
UC San Diego School of Medicine uploaded this post on how to study actively. Many people compare the rate of information you receive at medical school to drinking from a fire hose — you are presented with a lot of content in a very short amount of time. This being the case, it is important to spend your time actively studying, not simply passively studying (such as reading long passages of text without effort to memorize, or simply reading through your notes).
Thus, for some people, reading chapters in a textbook would not be highly beneficial. They would not retain much information from doing so, and would be taking time away from studying the content that the professor handed out (often, this is powerpoint slides). Personally, I have found that it is much easier to do extremely well in a class if I read the chapters assigned from the textbook. This is most likely because according to the Vark Questionnaire, I have a strong preference for the read/write learning style. I learn best from reading material, and writing out summaries/notes.
However, not everyone has a read/write preference in their learning style. Some people are auditory learners, some people are visual learners, and others are kinesthetic learners. Just because you are primarily one learning style does not mean you do not learn in other manners. I still learn content via auditory, visual, and kinesthetic manners; the way I tend to learn the best is simply read/write.
Time is another deciding factor on whether or not it is beneficial to read the textbook. In classes where I have had plenty of time (generally summer courses), I have read most of the chapters associated with the lectures. This helped me tremendously and made the class fairly easy. However, in other classes, I either started out the course reading the book and found it beneficial (but I was limited on time), or started out reading and did not find the content in the textbook overly helpful. In both cases it was more beneficial for me to spend my study time working through and learning the material that the professor gave us, instead of spending a few hours reading a long textbook chapter. Most professors test on the content that they give you and present on in class, not on the content in the textbook. Thus, in deciding whether or not to read, you must evaluate 1) whether or not you have time to read, and 2) whether or not reading is beneficial for you.
For me, reading is beneficial, but I consider it more of a luxury than a necessity. If I have time to read the textbook it benefits me greatly and makes the course easier, but it is not necessary for me to read the textbook in order to succeed in the course. In my current study plan for HSF, I will be reading the textbooks during part of the weekend. The weekdays are reserved for studying the content presented by the professors — unless it is highly important, I will not be reading a textbook chapter during the week.
One last thing to keep in mind is that referencing a textbook is much different than reading an entire chapter. It is often helpful to read short sections in a textbook regarding an aspect of the lecture that is difficult to understand or which you feel was not explained well in class. You are presented with another viewpoint/way of explaining the material, and this also gives you an additional time of exposure to the material. Memory is not simply repetition, it also encompasses understanding; however, repetition and reviewing the material are important for remembering information, and reading the textbook is an additional time that you go through the content.
In conclusion, reading the textbook may be helpful for some people more than others. Even if it is helpful, you may not have time to read all of the chapters assigned and learn the material presented in class. Whether or not you read the textbook is based on a variety of factors: 1) if you find reading to be a beneficial mode of learning the material, 2) if you have time to both read and learn from the lectures, and 3) how much the teacher emphasizes the textbook when they teach the material (it is often helpful to talk to upper years who have gone through the class in determining what different teachers emphasize). It is ultimately a personal decision, and while reading the textbook is generally not necessary, some people may find it very helpful to do so (whereas for others it would not be a good use of their time).
Do you read the assigned textbooks? Why/why not? Do you find it beneficial to do so, even if you do not generally have the time available to read the textbook?