When it comes to reading assignments sometimes less is more

State Hornet Staff

Entering the college world, it was expected there would be hefty reading assignments. However, some professors expect obnoxious amounts of reading to be done in an unrealistic amount of time, resulting in students skimming the material and missing main the ideas in the readings. 

The majority of students are taking 12-18 units each semester and, according to the Sacramento State catalogue, students may be assigned up to 300 pages of reading every week, depending on the class.

The average college course requires three to five hours of work outside of the classroom. This does not seem unreasonable, but when you have four classes paired with a job and other life commitments, that extra two hours of reading just adds to the stress.  

When college students are stressed they find shortcuts to make things simpler.

While skim-reading can be helpful five minutes before class when homework has been forgotten, students are actually being cheated of information. If professors expect students to read thoroughly and absorb all of the material, they need to assign a plausible amount of reading. 

Students with an excess amount of reading on any given night are only receiving a superficial understanding and an incomplete idea of what the material was about.

Then, when tested on the readings, students make inaccurate deductions and answer questions with responses that do not reflect a complete grasp of the subject. 

For certain subject matters, skim reading is just a bad idea. Medical books, case readings and novels can be misunderstood if skimmed due to their detailed content. 

Students can start to forget the little details that count and miss out on the overlying messages of the reading. 

In many cases, students will actually pick and choose which reading assignments to complete, deeming the other ones as unimportant. If a major course has a book review due, the 50 pages for a GE course will surely be pushed aside. 

Skimming seems inevitable during at least one point in a student’s college careers, and in a lot of situations, skim reading can be a useful skill for thinking on your feet, but it does not compete with thorough and deeper understanding of the topic at hand. For some students, skimming is not even effective, and they find it difficult to retain any amount of information while skim reading. 

The point is, overly lengthy reading assignments are limiting. Students skim and there is only so much they can learn from the first paragraph of every page. It would be interesting to see how test scores would change if the expected reading amount was 150 instead of 350 pages. 

This is less of a complaint about the workload of college, but more of a concern for the education system, which seems to be encouraging a sort of a lackadaisical effort to complete assignments. 

So, when dealing with those infamous professors who love to watch students squirm trying to finish three novels in one semester, it seems the only way of getting out alive – or at least with “C” – is to skim.