On being a good student without reading cover to cover

I wouldn’t consider BEDA complete if I didn’t have at least one Words of Wisdom post in there.

Below are strategies I have used to get through not completing a reading in time for class. I will, however, begin with some disclaimers: First, I always do the reading one way or another even if it is a bit late. Second, I never intentionally skip readings (except for Tuff which was justified because I don’t think the professor read it either). Third, I made it through high school and college with a roughly 3.9 (out of 4.0) GPA, so I do not intend for these strategies to be taken lightly or used for slacking. They are simply meant to help you maintain your reputation as a school genius when times get rough!

First some reading strategies:

  1. For short readings the best solution is always to skim. If paragraphs are brief, read the first and last paragraphs and the first sentence of each paragraph in between.
  2. If you only need to read more quickly, rather than skim, try to avoid highlighting or note-taking as it’s a total time eater. (Note: This does not work for everyone. I have a photographic memory so I can find quotes without notes or highlights, if you can’t and you know you’ll need to notes might be of value).
  3. For books or longer reading assignments, read the beginning of the assignment (or as far as you can get in the time you have).

Now, how those strategies will help you the most:

  • As soon as the teacher (or professor) starts asking questions about the reading, raise your hand. Answering questions first does two things. First, if you read the beginning, you will actually be answering questions to which you will know the answers. Second, this will suggest that you have nothing to hide because you are prepared. The teacher will not feel a need to single you out later in the class with an embarrassingly specific question that is impossible to answer without reading the material provided.
  • If you are forced to take a quiz on the material, provide as much information as you have even if it doesn’t always answer the question per se. This way you can show that you do know (some) stuff even if you can’t pin down the exact chain of events the led to the murder on page 195.
  • When in doubt, be vague. Some people might like to be specific and just take a gamble if they don’t know the right answer. If you are wrong, though, you are totally wrong and outed as not knowing the material. If, however, you are vague you might just be mincing words rather than bluffing. Plus, you might even be right, who knows?
  • Finally, if you have a chance to get your class participation out of the way by providing opinions, do it (as long as said opinions relate to the part of the reading you did complete/skim). Opinions are almost never wrong (unless you were annoyed about that murder on page 195 only to realize on page 230 that it was a hoax–then you’re wrong). Plus, it’s easier to bluff through the reading you don’t know inside out when you’re discussing opinions and not the specifics of plot.

Another disclaimer: These strategies will never be a substitute for actually doing readings and, more importantly, are unlikely to get you through an entire term–eventually you’ll have to read something. However, if a book is particularly odorous or just impossible to manage with your other obligations, use these strategies as a last resort. Remember, use these tips for good!