How Do I Know Whether I Need to Buy Textbooks?
The following tips, originally posted at the Studentawards Forum, were contributed by students in our membership.
Q. Is having absolutely no textbooks a good idea for university? I'm asking because I don't wanna waste money on textbooks, and during high school I never really opened my textbook once and still did OK. (posted by: Xiaohaha)
A. it depends on the prof and the course. It also depends on the university. Some courses you really don't need the textbook, as the assignments and exams are based on the material taught in class, with the text only supplementing the lectures. Other courses, you absolutely need the textbook … to do assignments, readings, etc. Some profs will examine you on some material in the textbook, even if they don't cover that material in class. Some courses also have what are called "course packs" which are materials that the prof puts together and sells in the bookstore. These are generally very important to buy, as they contain material that the prof considers important. For science courses, you will definitely need to buy lab manuals. They usually change year to year, so you can't get away with using an old one, or borrowing one. (posted by: CatRunner)
Q. How do you actually find out whether you need them? I doubt many professors would tell you the books aren't necessary, and is finding upper-years who have taken the same courses that easy? (posted by: Zion)
A. You go to a few classes and see how the professor structures the course. For example, most professors will assign homework out of the textbook, but only a few will post the questions online so that you could get by without a textbook. Stuff like that will help you decide. (posted by: ktel)
I've had plenty of profs tell us that the texts were recommended only, that they weren't necessary, unless we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the materials, or unless we were lacking in a specific area (or had done poorly in one of the pre-requisite courses). (posted by: CatRunner)
Facebook is a good place to start networking with upper-year students and finding out if textbooks are necessary. Also, by university, you should get a sense of what your learning style is. Some people can get away with not reading textbooks at all (so they don't really need to buy them) and still do extremely well. Of course, that depends a lot on your area of study, but it is doable. (posted by: Spengler)
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