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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


Save your energy son. I am doing my interns, and as I have found out, classes are plain stupid time consuming archaic rituals. Better to study an hour than to attend seven classes.

P.S. If you know you are good, then you can prove it.

Posted by: RC | Jan 15, 2009 4:06:53 AM

I get pretty worried too that I may miss something so I have only missed a couple lectures in two years. And I think I psych myself out by over-emphasizing that one question I got right on a test that wasn't from the book but from lecture. But I do find it easier to review the material on my own if I have heard it in lecture already.

Posted by: Leonysia | Jan 15, 2009 11:23:33 AM

I think it depends on your learning style. I have a classmate who is auditory, and learns best by hearing a lecture. I am very visual. I can usually cover a lecture (which takes the prof 50 minutes) in about 20-25.
I have also found that I attend the lectures of interesting professors, while don't attend those I find boring.
And speaking from experience, I can say grades do not suffer from not going to lecture.

Posted by: Zack | Jan 15, 2009 8:43:07 PM

I'm afraid too miss something valuable on lecture, but I understand that I can do more study and learn more material when I study by myself :) but it boring too.

So I think it is good to attend only lectures with practical information and learn all theory by yourself.

Anyway if you got some problem with understanding - you can ask proffessor on lecture. But when you read a book - you cannot ask anyone.

So, if the proffessor isn't a boring person - I attend all his lectures. I think it's a very valuable spending of the time.

Posted by: Steve | Jan 16, 2009 1:00:23 AM

it really depends on the person. i guess at the end of the day you'll do what is convenient for you.as a med student we do a lot of ways to make out lives easy in med school. as for me i do attend class since it is required by our school i find it easier to understand the topics since the professors shares their experiences it easy for me to visualize the lessons. on the other hand sometimes there are profs that i consider a waste of time still i attend my classes. i guess to sum it all up we all want to pass med school alive and my advice is find your nitch in studying... it doesn't have to be the same as your friends try something that yo find yourself comfortable with..in the end you will the one benefiting from it...

GOD BLESS... enjoy medschool!!!!

Posted by: kathy | Jan 16, 2009 1:07:33 AM

hi, I don't love lectures because at my school they take place at 7 a.m, and my day at the hospital ends at 6 pm or 11 pm, so you can imagine. it is obligatory of corse tha's why i skip until the limit aceptible. and after that I atend religiously, thank U

Bachir from Mozambique.

Posted by: Bachir | Jan 16, 2009 5:02:41 AM

I feel like going to class or not goes beyond a personal choice.....everyone studies differently, and anyone who tells you differently is lying through their teeth. My university says that class is "mandatory" and has even assigned these clicker things so that in class we use them and they will check attendance.....doesn't take a rocket scientist to find a friend who GOES to class to click their clicker for them!

I am not a class goer, and haven't been since undergrad even. It works for me. As far as med school goes, though, it took me until my second year to finally perfect my study habits. Some people can go to class, and then just look over the notes and get an A.....Not I! I get too curious when learning, and love to go on tangents (in wiki or e-medicine or something), and I have found that catering to my curiosity has helped keep me interested in what I'm learning, which makes me actually look forward to studying a lot of the time! I'm also a very visual learner (and a pretty artsy person), so instead of just writing pages and pages of notes, I need to make charts, diagrams, concept maps and the likes. I've found that allowing myself to enjoy studying has not only kept me from hating studying, but I also get WAY less stressed out, and my grades have gone WAY up!

There are a million people who will tell you a million ways to study, and no one can tell you what is right for you. I would recommend finding a study style that lets you enjoy the material.....everyone knows how it gets (especially around exams) when you are just dreading opening those textbooks, and if you can put off that feeling for as long as possible, good for you. Good luck with it all, and see you on the other side!

Posted by: Sej | Jan 16, 2009 9:46:10 AM

Hope I'm not too late to post anything here.
Jeff, you said you were curious how PBL works.
I'm a 3rd year med student from Indonesia (UNPAD) and we have PBL system working here.

Well, all i can say is it's kind of strict here. Nothing is optional. All have been designed in blocks and systems, and you have no other choice than to follow those systems.

One year consists of 3 systems (eg. reproductive system, endocrine system, etc). Each system is tested in a comprehensive test. If you fail any of the tests, you have to do all the 3 systems in that year again.

We have several primary activities when we go to campus: tutorials, mini-lectures, skill labs, lab activities. All are compulsory to be attended. You must consult the faculty if you can't attend any of the 4 activities to compensate your unattendance. Otherwise, you are not eligible for the tests, meaning: you fail the test before the test is started.

TUTORIAL is the most important activity. This is where the most students get their knowledge. We are divided into groups each containing 9-10 students with one tutor. We are given clinical cases. Patient comes with chief complaint blah blah blah.. And we are supposed to discuss what happen to the patient, what's the diagnosis, why it happens, and so on. Your tutor will not teach you (sometimes because they don't understand the case too. I mean it's possible that you have a ophthalmologist as your tutor while discussing Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura). Any questions we can't answer in tutorial will be called 'learning issues'. We gotta find the 'learning issues' from the textbooks and explain it in the next tutorial.

LECTURE: we don't have lectures. What we have is mini-lectures. Mini-lectures are done in a theater room with the whole class (approx. 200 people) at once. We have mini-lectures 1 hour once a week. It's totally boring. I don't get anything here. The lecturer only reads those which are written in the slides (I can do it myself at home!). But, since it's compulsory we must attend this too.

SKILL LAB: it's the class where you learn how to face your patients. We learn how to do anamnesis, physical exam, and so on.

LAB ACTIVITY: it's a usual lab. Pharmacology lab, physiology lab, etc.

So, answering your question: to be or not to be in class, I guess I have no other answer. =)

Posted by: Edz | Jan 16, 2009 5:50:49 PM

I always attend every class.the reason are not only because its important subjects but also our attending is considered as prerequisite to go into examination,it need 80% attending. that's why i must attend all the classes eventhough i really really bored and stressed because of these.but i have trick to get over my stress,my friends and i sit at the backside than comment anything around us include our tutor,our most hot couple,food,etc by writing sms.but cell phone isnt allowed during class,so we use paper to write our gossips.the point is,my college is a discipline place

Posted by: Martha | Jan 18, 2009 2:57:26 AM

I'm a 1st year student in medical school. Some of my dear friends record Lecturer's voice and write it on paper. So i'm able to study whenever i want, though, i attend almost all of the classes except Public Health lessons. I just skip them. In one Public Health lesson they had given us the infant mortality rate in 2003 in our country. What i am gonna do with that? Anyway i have also share same worries...

Posted by: Salih | Jan 18, 2009 2:49:30 PM

Where I am lectures are not compulsory, everything else must have an attendance of 80%. It means that if people talk in lectures, the lecturer can remind them that its not compulsory and so if they don't want to listen they shouldn't have come. As opposed to having 330 students in a room some of whom don't want to be there and are talking. I go as I'm in the scared of missing a crucial nugget of info camp, and I won't do it at home (cos I'm not motivated enough), though there is one lecturer who I don't go to.

Posted by: Imogen | Jan 19, 2009 9:15:53 AM

good to hear that. I used to skip classes especially in my 2nd and 3rd year, not in 1st year (Anatomy, physiology and Biochemistry), it was just beacause of fear.. But coming to clinical years, your will never dare to miss in the ward rounds, my friend you must SEE how your seniors are inspecting, percusing and auscultating patients!! u dont get that in books!!! but if it is Pharmacology or microbiology leacture, u better experiment ur ''sef-study'' thing, im sure it will pay you.. cheers,

Posted by: sam kikaro, TANZANIA | Jan 20, 2009 10:35:34 PM

Well, at first when I started med school I had a serious policy of no skipping lectures no matter what. Throughout the years I've become more liberal about this, (maybe due to laziness, maybe because I've always been kind of a self-learner), but I've come to realize that I, in particular, learn better when I go to lectures. Maybe it has something to do with the way I learn (being a visual and a listening learner).


Posted by: Daloha Rodriguez | Jan 21, 2009 8:16:56 PM

hey there jeff, im a graduate of a pbl class...so maybe i can help u a bit understand it... we have like schedules for sessions where in we are divided into groups with a preceptor (who is an attending)to discuss cases,and its not like ur given a page of a book to study.instead of having the traditional subjects(anatomy,patho,physio),the curriculum is divided into modular(ent,gastro,cardio,pulmo etc)...for example:we start a session with our preceptor introducing a simulated patient's case.we then brain storm and discussion starts...while discussing the patients case,learning issues arises from anatomy to physio,patho to pharma etc...we are just studying the basic science w/ clinical side by side instead of studying them one at a time...its a a bit harder to adapt to at first,but in the long run it works...

Posted by: ninette | Jan 21, 2009 9:23:31 PM

and yeah, its left to us to read whatever reference we can get which is real interesting during the discussion because what is not properly discussed in one book may be explained by another book...

Posted by: ninette | Jan 21, 2009 9:32:56 PM

In the medical school I study, I can have an excused absence of 20%. If the no. of absent days crosseas 20%, the administration marks us failed for the course... which is weird because in general it is the student's choice to attend or skip a lecture.
Sitting right in the middle of the lecture, I find it hilarious why some of the most experienced professors would find it ?insulting when a certain no. of students are absent. What do they actually think is the reason students are absent? Themselves??

Posted by: Sharon | Jan 21, 2009 10:19:50 PM

i am also study on PBL method & it is really graduate a stronge doctors i dont know how the traditional way of lectures make the student understand , at least we can collect 70% of information from one sesion

Posted by: maza | Jan 25, 2009 5:01:05 AM

My school does not have an attendance policy (except for small group or advisory-type classes). On exam day it seems that the number of people about doubles. We get all the lecture notes and handouts before the class starts (2-3 inch binder) and the lectures are taped. That takes away any motivation to go to class for a lot of people it seems.

I still go to class. every. single. day. I just can't muster up the motivation to go through the pages and pages of notes on my own. Sure, I don't always get everything during the lecture, but when I go through the material that night I walk away knowing the stuff (I write out everything I have to know by hand after the lecture - basically copying the notes with my own thoughts thrown in).

I supplement my lecture notes (which sometimes are just plain words, but most often include pictures) with the textbook and google/wikipedia.

In 3.5 years of college and 1+ semesters of med school I've missed only a single class without a good reason (intro chem in college - I overslept)...

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Posted by: Ann | Apr 6, 2009 11:24:37 PM

I'm absolutely paranoid about 'missing something important'. The thing is I always end up thinking 'that was a total waste of my time' at the end of the lecture. Come next lecture, I'll start freaking out about missing something and sit through another hour of torture learning nothing.

I'm now working on how not to feel too guilty about skipping lectures :) Just last week, I had a lecturer telling us that he personally thinks lectures are a waste of time, and if we feel that we're not getting anything out of it, it's best we don't turn up. I'm more of the self taught type so lectures are really a waste of time and energy for me.

As I live quite a distance from uni, I need to get up super early and usually end up falling asleep in lectures anyway.

But what if the lecturer says something important?!?!?

Posted by: anna | Apr 9, 2009 7:32:47 PM

A lot of my lecturers believe that in order to learn in class, you must jot down, whereas the jotting distracts me a lot. so i do not gain anything tangible afterwards. this is really awkward.

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