How often do students actually use their textbooks?

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It always happens: We buy all our books at the beginning of the year, excited to make it the year we actually keep up with all our reading and immerse ourselves in our studies. But we all know the truth: We don’t end up reading everything.

We at the Clog decided to interview students on campus to see exactly how often they use their books. We interviewed about 50 students ranging from freshmen to seniors over the course of three days and asked them a series of questions about their book purchases and usage.

We found that when students start off as freshmen, many are excited (and a little naive) about finally getting to take a stab at the workload at UC Berkeley. Our data show that, on average, freshmen will buy 69 percent of their books. However, they will only carry one to two books to their classes each day and will only complete about 60 percent of their readings.

As freshmen, we at the Clog totally felt like we needed to buy all our books (usually from the Cal bookstore), and we came in fully expecting to do every reading assignment. By the end of the semester, however, even the biggest perfectionist among the freshman has probably started to procrastinate and ignore his or her readings.

Freshmen at the Cal Bookstore … So excited to spend money on overpriced books!

We initially assumed that by sophomore year, students would be poor and more inclined to dislike the daily grind of reading assignments. However, data showed that sophomores actually bought a higher percentage of their books than freshmen — a whopping 78 percent.


Yeah, we don’t really understand it either.

Second-years also only reported carrying only one to two books to class, but they completed 70 percent of their readings — 10 percentage points more than freshman. Maybe they began to realize that they need to start buckling down now that their first year has already passed?


Wait, this class had assigned readings?

Entering junior year, we found that there was a decrease in the number of books purchased. 

Yeah, that’s right. We know about Amazon.

Juniors bought 72 percent of their books and read, on average, 55 percent of their readings. We have an alternative theory that, by junior year, many students have become experts at book Googling to find the readings for free on the Internet.

Finally, by senior year, students only reported buying 50 percent of their books — a massive decline from freshman year, when they came to UC Berkeley with lofty goals of completing all their readings. Some seniors have perfected the art of finding exactly where to get the best deals on their books and have found people in the same major to exchange books with. In theory, they might find ways to avoid buying a single book. 

This is apparent: Data show that seniors bought, on average, two books. They also carry zero or one book to class but manage to do 60 percent of their readings.

Though each student has different amounts of assigned reading, the general consensus was that students do not do all their readings and do not make full use of their textbooks (shocker!). We get it — it gets really difficult to keep up with all our schoolwork, and sometimes things just slip through the cracks. Now we just have data to prove we’re not alone in not completing everything.

Image sources: rob.wall under Creative Commons, hayy-dee, reactiongifs, shaytardgifs, gemini-dragon-gifsiamjamaickistani and omg-feels-everywhere

Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected]

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