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To Be, Or Not To Be (In Class)

JeffglassesJeff Wonoprabowo -- As a first year student I attended the majority of lectures. There were, after a while, a few professors whose lecture style I preferred not to listen to. And there were a couple of days when I woke up and just had to sleep in another hour and would skip the first class. But all in all, I think it's safe to say that I attended over 80% of lectures.

It wasn't because I had figured out that I learn better through lecture. It was because of fear. I had this paranoia that I would miss something important. Maybe the professor would say something like "Know this for the test," or "This part isn't important." I was always amazed at classmates who never came to class. On exam days I would occasionally see someone who I didn't recognize at all.

Since we returned from Christmas break, I attended the first lecture to pick up the class notes, I attended a Pharmacology Lab which was not optional, and I attended a Religion class that requires attendance. Aside from those three, I have not attended any other lectures in three days. I am trying out this self-study thing.

The good thing is that I'm trying this out at the very beginning of the quarter. I've decided that the experiment will not last longer than a week. Hopefully that will be enough time to figure things out.

Maybe it isn't a good idea to mix things up right now. I really hope I'm not trying this because I'm lazy. I am hoping that once and for all I will be able to know whether I study better with lectures or on my own. Although, in reality, the best will probably be somewhere in between the two.

I'm curious how others here study. Do you attend lectures? Do you skip all? some? none? Anyone else feel paranoid about missing "important info" by missing lectures?

January 9, 2009 in Jeff Wonoprabowo | Permalink


I usually attend class (as I also have the fear of missing something important being said) but overall I've found that, when I have the self-control to actually study when skipping a class, I get a lot more done and retain the info much better than if I'd been in class. However: the challenge arises when you are tempted to do something so much nicer than to sudy...

Posted by: ELP | Jan 9, 2009 9:41:54 AM

I'm just like you. I go to lectures because I'm scared I will miss something vital that the professor will say. I think I'm going to try the "study-on-your-own" thing this semester too.

Posted by: Nate | Jan 9, 2009 12:22:29 PM

I usually attend both classes and lectures. This is like a self-discipline for myself and I kept telling myself not to be lazy. Lectures are actually a guide for me to study and I felt myself can study better with these guides. The lecturers might share some of their special experiences and there is no harm to listen also. As one of my lecturers told us: 'You came all the way to this country, different cultures, different languages and also extreme weather, please be responsible to yourself because you are not here to sleep in the hostel and study yourself.' He had been sarcastic to us but I think this is right in a way too...phew.....must keep up the good work!

Posted by: min | Jan 9, 2009 12:40:11 PM

I started my first year attending lecture. The first few blocks of my second year, I started to deviate away from going to lecture because, just as you, I saw a lot of people who didn't go to lecture and still were at the top of the class when it came to tests. By not going to class, I realized I became less dependent on the prof and more dependent on myself to learn the information. Remember, you're not learning medicine for the grade, you're learning it for the sake of treating people in the future. So just because the prof doesnt say "this is important" for a certain topic doesn't mean it's not important. Whether you choose to go to class or not, a change of mindset is the best thing you can do in your first year.

Posted by: Ali | Jan 9, 2009 4:20:57 PM

I attended all lectures religiously until 3rd year, when I stopped attending ones by certain lecturers who weren't that spellbinding (and read in the library or saw patients). I found that my marks increased, which kind of surprised me as I was always one of those who wouldn't dream of skipping class for anything less than a sucking chest wound.

Posted by: dragonfly | Jan 10, 2009 1:03:22 AM

I am in the online MD program! Since almost all of our lectures are taped and podcast I do not feel as though I am missing anything. I think I stopped attending lectures on the third day of medical school. I am a kinesthetic learner; sitting in an ice cold lecture hall trying to learn by listening is not a productive use of my time. I still have to go home and teach it to myself in order to understand the material. I think that your attendance should be based on your learning style.
Some students argue that choosing not to attend class is disrespectful to the professor. I tend to believe that my absence is more respectful than sitting in class, not listening, passing notes and talking so that the lecturer has to repeatedly ask for "just a few minutes of quiet so he can finish the material."

Posted by: Cave Dweller | Jan 11, 2009 1:06:29 PM

I have not attended class more than 2x/mo for the past year. My scores went up when I stopped going to class.

Posted by: laura | Jan 13, 2009 1:07:19 PM

It's funny to even read articles describing lecture heavy schools because where I come from, a school that embraces PBL to the fullest, everyone pretty much adheres to a self-designed study regimen. I honestly think that lectures, with one man standing in front of all, are one of the worst ways to actually learn new material.

Posted by: Carter | Jan 13, 2009 3:06:41 PM

My school does not give us the choice of attending or not. I go to a foreign school, and they think that it is their duty to make us go, thus if you miss more than 6 days you fail that class.

This is very different from my experience in the US, except for a few teachers that are kinda of jerks. I really miss the non-required format because I find classmates show up just to show up and really distract from lectures that I find interesting.

I agree with everyone, I really don't get much from the lectures other than interesting things. I really wish my school let us "self-study" alot more.

Posted by: Michael | Jan 13, 2009 4:42:44 PM


Without lectures, how do the students know what to study. Do they get page numbers? Are you given topics to know and the students must then look them up in whatever reference they can find?

I'm curious how the PBL curriculum works...

Posted by: Jeff W | Jan 14, 2009 12:11:45 AM

I always attended class until I had mono during the second half of first year. I missed about a month of school, and studied on my own at home. I was worried about missing so much class, but wound up learning better than I had before, and getting higher grades. Some of the people in my class who never attend are quite on the ball and do well!

Posted by: Jess | Jan 14, 2009 9:40:20 AM

really nice conversation

Posted by: shilpa | Jan 14, 2009 9:59:03 AM

i surely attend for every class

Posted by: shilpa | Jan 14, 2009 9:59:29 AM

Honestly it depends I know one of my friends who is exceellent student that he skips most of his classes but the thing is that he almost need double the time that he might have needed if he attended the lectures for me if there is no excuse for me to skip the lecutre i will not and beside i do not like critque the professors becasue i believe who ever the person is he must have got something important to tell and for me it depends on the reciepient i know some lecturer lake the skill of presenting informations and they lack the skill of conveying the informations to students but do student try hard enough to understand, For me working in PBL'S beside lecutres are the best.
Where I study this what we apply and you can not imagine how effective it's.
Best regards.

Posted by: Abdulaziz | Jan 14, 2009 10:04:35 AM

Yes, I am sometimes paranoic but, to tell you the truth, I learn more when I go to class, I cannot lecture by myself. I always like the little (non)medical discussions with my colleagues before a class starts :)

Posted by: Monica | Jan 14, 2009 10:57:17 AM

There are many pros and cons of attending or not attending lectures...Like Jeff I was motivated by fear of missing valuable information...but ask your professors how often they attended class and you'll be surprised of the answers. Most of mine attended 50% or less of the basic science courses.

In my experience going to class 5 days a week for 20-40 hours a week and then going home to study for another 4+ hours can be extremely exhausting. By the end of the day/week I become restless and end up not being as productive as I could be.

However, I am not saying there is no need to attend classes but sometimes it is beneficial to be selective of which ones to attend. Time is valuable and one must spend it wisely in medical school.

Some of my professors I love listening to because they offer what I consider very valuable information that they have learned from experience while other professors just regurgitate what is on the power point slide. (When this happens it leads to boredom and I end of surfing the net or fighting to stay awake...i know I am not the only one...take a look at the screens of your classmates). When I engage in this behavior, I usually use the syllabus as an outline for self study.

Another benefit of attending lectures is an additional exposure to the material...the thought is the more I see it the more apt it will stick in my brain...but like I said before if I am just sitting in class not paying attention is it to my benefit?

Overall, I do not feel guilty anymore about missing classes. I am an adult and it is my choice to attend or not to attend classes, the information is out there for me to gobble up.

Where I usually draw the line is clinical experience. There is nothing better than hands on experience and applying theoretical knowledge.

An important thing to remember is that you are paying for the schooling and you are in charge of how you learn the information. So do what is comfortable and convenient for YOU.

Weigh the pros and cons for yourself, discover your learning style(s), and then make the judgment of attending class or not. But don't let fear navigate how you learn, I guarantee that you will learn more if the variable of fear is removed.

Posted by: Dave Hamilton | Jan 14, 2009 11:07:10 AM

Hi, I think this is a debate that varies based on attitude. I'm in my final years of medicine in the UK and constantly argue that it's important to read on your own since in 1 hour you can cover information to more depth on a subject than you would if you were taught in a lecture. Most people disaggree with this; but my performace on knowledge is good, so this seems to justify my arguements. But again, this depends on the speed you can cover stuff; if you are well rested (sleep in missing class) and grab a nice coffee- guaranteed you'll cover twice as much as a lecture could teach you.

However, if you do not turn up to anything; you start to loose touch with the class environment, this can leave you feeling slightly isolated from the medical world and after a while you feel like "Why am I even studying again?" as there are no landmarks to give you direction. Therefore, you should attend a few of the lectures you are interested in or that are super important topics per week and leave the rest. Definately go to complicated concept lectures; you get the opportunity to ask questions on something that may be badly explained in books.

Posted by: Andy | Jan 14, 2009 11:50:21 AM

maybe u wont belive this but actually i didnt attend any lecture for the last two years although i get B on exam.the time you spend in listening repeted stuff i recommend you to spend it more with your books or petients.
good luck to you all

Posted by: ZHIVAGO | Jan 14, 2009 11:55:09 AM

Attending or not attending classes depends on personal choice. It has nothing to do with getting higher marks or not.
I am a 1st year medical student from INDIA. I usually dont like attending lectures sitting with around 100 students in a class room. Infact I cant concentrate what the Prof. is telling. Waking up early in the morning to just attend a class at 8 AM is not suiting me. But any way one must have a source of understanding the difficult concepts. It is must that you gain the conceptual knowledge anyway. All books are not so brilliantly written that every student can understand. If this had been the case then we should not be enrolling in medical school to be a doctor. Every one could have been a doctor by studying books.

What I have discovered as a substitute of lectures is that virtual class room lectures.
As I am a 1st year student I have collected/purchased video lecture courses of diff. medical colleges.
Anatomy - Acland's DVD atlas of anatomy
Biochemistry - University of Naveda medical school video lectures by Charles Drealing.
Physiology - Kaplan STEP 1 (2007) physiology lecture videos. Adv. Physiology lectures by Gerald R. Cizadlo

In fact these things are helping me much more than class room teachings. But one must attend practicals because practical knowledge can't be gained virtually.

One most important thing is that we are doing professional course, we are not studying just for good marks in exams. We are studying for our career, let we be a good doctor or a good scientist hard core knowledge will make us successful in our path. So expecting probable questions/important topics should not be our attitude at this stage.

Posted by: Ashu | Jan 14, 2009 11:59:16 AM

I must say personally i always enjoy being in class for different reasons such as sometimes the lecturers say things inclusive of what they have gained from their practice.I tend to understand the subject topic more after leaving the class and reading it again.

Posted by: Ayodeji Borokinni | Jan 14, 2009 1:48:31 PM

My university, it is compulsory to attend the lecture. I hate to do it, because, u knows, some of the lectures really useless and waste time. And…after a wholeday lectures, used up mu all energy, I need to lecture myself again. It’s double job. And it really really tired…so I will be very happy if I fall sick, because I had excused attending that. Further, I don’t know why, the lecturers like to show their lecture the week before exam, some even worse, try to show their extra-concern, extra lecture or one hour lecture become three hours.

Posted by: choo | Jan 14, 2009 2:58:27 PM

My online program does not require attendance at the weekly lectures. (These are available as podcasts). But, as a non-traditional student, I enjoy the opportunity to speak to my classmates and my instructor.

Posted by: Susan | Jan 14, 2009 3:14:54 PM

I have the exact same phobia as you. The I-might-miss-something-someone-else-got phobia. I think it roots from my "need to know". I once attended this lecture which most people would deem ridiculous since it was one of those subjects that wasn't really important (wasn't even part of exams). I went anyway because I always thought that despite having to eat dinner late and taking the bus alone in the dark, who knows what I might learn that could benefit me in the future.

I think it's a matter of style. Some people DO study better by themselves.

Posted by: workaholic888 | Jan 14, 2009 3:17:03 PM

Well I don't have much of a choice, at my school I'm forced to have at least an attendancy of 80%, and I can't skip a single day in the clinical courses unless there is something to justify my absence... Yeap, that's the way it works at my university, in Mexico City.


Posted by: Pepe Telic of h | Jan 14, 2009 9:00:35 PM

I also prefer not to go to the classes. According to me we can learn the things whatever spoken in the theory class from the books.And for that we need not have to spend our time in the boring classes. But the clinical rotations are of important.If we spend more time with the patients then it will be more beneficial.

Posted by: Jayanta | Jan 14, 2009 10:10:25 PM

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