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Getting ahead on your course reading

How’s the course reading for next year going? I’m sure by now some of you have bought all of your books and have perhaps even made a start on some of the bigger ones. You’ve probably even highlighted a few quotes and found some of the additional reading in the library’s online catalogue. If you’ve just found out you’re joining us at Warwick in October, maybe the required reading isn’t your biggest concern right now, but it may be a good idea to consider starting soon.

“But it’s the summer”, I hear you cry. “Shouldn’t we all get some much-needed rest, forget about the studying and go and enjoy a drink in the sun?” Well, yes, that too. Nonetheless, with almost four months away from campus, surely we can all find a moment to take the strain off our future selves and invest in a little pre-reading. 

As an English Literature student, pre-reading in the summer is essential for me. I won’t be able to read Anna Karenina cover-to-cover for a single lecture mid-way through term two, so I need to get it done now. Whatever your subject, using this time to read around your subject, look ahead to your upcoming modules and think about that looming dissertation can be the difference between a good grade and a great one, and it’s easier than you might think.

Allow your brain to switch off and recharge, then when you begin to feel bored you can gently reintroduce the books

Step one: give yourself a break. I’m assuming you didn’t leap straight out of your final exam into the library to start work for next year, but in case you did then please, for your own sanity, stop. Give yourself at least a week to completely switch off from all studies. You heard me, no reading at all. In fact, do the opposite: watch hours of mindless Netflix shows and stare at the wall for days. If you haven’t already, allow your brain to switch off and recharge and then when you begin to feel bored you can gently reintroduce the books.

When you’re ready, make time to read. Just an hour a day can make a huge difference. If you can then make it at the same time each day, building a routine will help keep you motivated and on track. Work out when your best time to read is. For some people this might be straight after breakfast or for others, past midnight. Personalise your reading schedule so you’re at your best.

Pick any book off your course list and simply read. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, you don’t have to read quickly or remember everything you’ve read. Get a cup of tea, your comfiest chair and take your time. Trust that if you keep to your schedule and pay attention, the right information will stay with you for when you need it. If you’ve never studied the topic before, don’t panic if you don’t understand it straight away. Stop and Google anything you want clarification on, try not to power through simply to complete as many pages as possible. 

Setting aside time to get ahead now will pay dividends in the depths of terms one and two when the work starts to pile up

Saying that, make sure your reading isn’t limited to your course books. Keep reading for pleasure as well as for studying. Last year, I bought a copy of Murder Most Fab by Julian Clary from a lady in a second-hand bookshop who was trying to shift a whole shelf of them for 50p each. It was a pity purchase more than anything and, to be honest, Clary is no Charles Dickens. But it was hilarious and so easy to read, it was the perfect way for me to switch off from the intensity of my academic texts.

The next few weeks are about giving yourself a break and preparing for October when it all starts again. How to balance those two aims will look different for everyone, depending on what kind of person you are, but I’m sure that there’s plenty of time for both. Setting aside time to get ahead now will pay dividends in the depths of terms one and two when the work starts to pile up.

So, don’t shy away from those course textbooks this summer. Whatever your process looks like, I hope you have a relaxing, productive, fulfilling summer and at least consider picking up something on that required reading list. Believe me, your future self will thank you for it.

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