How much course reading does anyone actually do?

Another academic year has arrived at UEA, and with it a steady stream of preparatory reading for lectures and seminars. But how much do we actually manage? It’s a tough life being a student; this studying malarkey might just be too much to handle. This year, switching onto a joint honours degree which encapsulates a broad spectrum of humanities courses has shown me how different humanities schools recommend reading and ways to prepare for seminars. There’s the list of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ reading approach, where you can peacock proudly if you finish reading the last ‘compulsory’ poem before the seminar starts. The ‘here’s just two chapters to read’ method: if you can’t even manage this then there really isn’t much hope. The final one to be found is the list method but detailed preparatory notes are a must as these will be assessed. At first the commitment to our education can seem horrifying, and mandatory seminar notes leave us all of an intellectual flutter. Though perhaps this will be the handiest way for us to soak up knowledge.

As riveting as this all is, there is no point keeping to a monopoly on reading habits. To really spice things up we asked some other UEA students about how much reading they do to prepare for each weeks topics. To start things off, it’s worth looking at the stereotypical heavy weights of the reading world – English literature students, on how one prepares; “I just do the primary reading – I try my best,” and your best is greatly appreciated! While history is a different field entirely, it’s more; “depends on if I can be bothered, I’ll do the reading on a whim basically.” But when the two degrees are combined, that’s when the magic happens. There’s a contrast between history, “reading piles and piles and taking what’s useful” and Literature which seems “more about analysing every detail, so takes much longer for much less text”. Now that sounds like a student that has been keeping on top of their reading! Whether any of it is making a positive impact on their UEA IQ is questionable.

It’s not all about humanities students though, science undergraduates also indulge in reading. Economics are stepping up their game, “I’ll try to do more now in second year… when I get my books.” But environmental science trumps all, “there’s a recommended reading list – I don’t think there’s a set list, it doesn’t matter either way as I don’t read.”

It would appear we’re all getting our money’s worth out of £9K and with change to spare too. But it isn’t all about weekly reading anyway; often making it to lectures and seminars on time is the biggest demon that many students will have to face. So if you can roll out of bed after an LCR night, make it to your 9am lecture and arrive knowing you’re on top of the weekly reading, you are studenting very well indeed.


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August 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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