Read Your Textbook

Why You Should and Why You Shouldn't

Jun 30, 2021 | Productivity

Let’s be honest. Nobody really wants to read their textbooks. There are about 100,000 more interesting activities I’d rather take part in. Sleeping on a bed of worms, watching that one sad scene from Up twenty times in a row, or eating a gallon of mayo all sound more enjoyable than reading a chapter about tectonic plates.

Unfortunately, professors don’t seem to understand this, and they keep assigning textbook chapters anyway. But do you have to read them? The short answer is: maybe. The slightly longer answer can be found below.

The Three Criteria for Deciding if You Should Read Your Textbook

1. Are you tested over the textbook reading?

If your professor gives you quizzes about the reading or tests you on specific items only found in your textbook, bad news, you need to read your textbook. It’s possible that the quizzes make up a small percentage of your overall grade and you might be able to get away with failing them and still get a good grade in the class. I wouldn’t try that though. Reading your textbook in these situations is highly recommended. The bed of worms will have to wait.

2. Does your professor lecture on the topics from the textbook?

Here’s a tricky one. If your professor’s lectures follow the textbook closely, you might not need to read your textbook. Taking detailed notes from the lectures and talking to the professor about any questions you have is often just as good as reading the textbook. In fact, it might be even better. Your professor will cover the essential information and avoid a lot of items in the textbook that you don’t need to know about.

3. Is it a tricky subject?

It’s usually easier to understand concepts in freshman or sophomore level classes. In these classes, you might be able to avoid reading your textbook because you can get all the information you need from lectures and reviews. Junior and senior classes are more complex, and you’ll need to read your textbook to understand what’s going on. Even if the textbook reading isn’t required, you’ll understand the subject better and do better on tests if you read your textbook.

The Key to Answering this Question

So by now you know the answer to this question is highly variable. It depends on the class, the grading structure, the professor, and the topic. The key to answering this question is constant assessment. Keep track of how your professor is running their class and how well you understand the subject. For the first half of the semester, you might be acing every quiz without ever flipping through the pages of your textbook. However, if things start to get harder, and you see your quiz grades going down, maybe add textbook reading back to your routine. Again, the key is to constantly monitor the situation and adjust your textbook reading accordingly