What to do when you haven’t done your required reading

At some point during your studies, you will likely attend a class without having read the required text. You could have the strongest passion in the world for reading and learning. Still, many students enjoy a night out, and the subsequent hangover can stunt your studies. Additionally, some students go through hard times that mean they slip behind.

This article is not written to permit or encourage you to skip the required reading: it’s a safety net for those who need a few tips to get through that one class that they weren’t quite prepared for. Here’s what you should do in this scenario:

Be Honest

There’s nothing more cringy and awkward than student blagging. Still, tutors like to call on their students to maximise engagement and facilitate ideas. Consequently, if you don’t know the answers to a question because you haven’t done the reading, say so. It might sound harsh, but you’ll make matters worse if you waste people’s time by talking nonsense.

Your tutors and professors aren’t stupid. After all, they know when standards are slipping instantly, so don’t assume you can dupe them. They’re more likely to accept your circumstances and help you if you treat them like a person, not an idiot!

Own your mistake and apologise. There’s some integrity and dignity there, and people will respect your upfront and honest nature. Clearly state you’ll catch up and be better prepared for your next session. Additionally, if your circumstances were extrordinary and relevant, perhaps mention them if you feel comfortable doing so. Acceptance and help comes through clear understanding!

Still Participate

It can be easy to feel a little bit useless when you’re behind. This is especially true if you’re accustomed to being on top of your studies. Everyone in the room knows something you don’t, and you’re sat there like a lemon making notes on narratives and philosophies you don’t understand.

While it can be tempting to roll with the satire and laugh the whole thing off, the truth is you’re a burden on others if you just sit in silence for an hour. Your input really does matter, so don’t willingly remain on the backfoot!

The games not over if you’ve missed out on the reading. During seminars, it’s highly likely that your tutors will print out extracts from the text. You are still quite capable of analysing these snippets, so at least have a go. After all, when your tutor has put them into a loose context, you should be able to formulate some ideas big or small.

Sit with those in the know

While you can learn a lot from a text, you can also learn a lot from your peers at university. Of course, some of them are more engaged than others. Try to identify who are the lazybones in the room, and who take their studies seriously. Ask if you can sit with the group who know what they’re talking about, and learn from them too.

This strongly applies in subjects such as English. Many of the English seminars are built around collaborative learning, so don’t be afraid to approach different people and join in. Most people will be happy to help you, and you may even make a new friend or two along the way.

Read the text after class

Despite that feeling of anxiety during class, it’s really not the end of the world. While you should always do your reading, your tutors will empathise if it’s a one-off. There’s also the point that you’re not in school anymore, and no one is going to force you to make things right.

Be sure to cool off and take responsability. A temporary gap in your education is okay, so long as you try to fill it as quickly as possible. If you haven’t read the text for your class, read it after. After all, the best kinds of courses have related and closely intertwined classes. Think of each class as a link in a chain, and without one, the whole thing falls apart.

When your lecture or seminar is over, hit the books. Read up on everything you missed and catch up. If you had a question related to whatever you’re reading, the moment is not gone to ask it. Fire off an email to a tutor, and if they know you’re not pig ignorant and lazy, they’ll be happy to help you.

George Moss writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.