Many a time have I turned up at class, without having read the handouts previously and expect to learn everything I need within the one hour lecture. But unfortunately it hardly ever works out this easy! Preparing yourself before hand can increase your ability for retaining information, given in the lecture, a hundred fold.
Taking ten minutes to prepare for upcoming classes might help you more than you think possible. Most students will claim that they don’t have time to keep up with their usual studies, let alone study ahead for classes the next day, but what a lot of people don’t realise is pre-class preparation doesn’t require hours of study. Contrary to popular opinion, you only need to read through the information that will be covered in the next class to initiate the learning process.
The first time I tried this I considered it a waste of time, as I was sure I wasn’t retaining any information and I was just reading for the sake of it. I made a couple of notes next to paragraphs I had no clue about and left it at that. The entire exercise took me about ten minutes per class.
However the next day, when the teacher was going through the information in the handouts, I recognised many of the simpler terms. Also I had a head start on the more complicated parts of the material, which allowed me to ask the questions which I would of had to have set up a separate meeting with the teacher to ask, if I had not previously done some reading. That evening I read through the material once more to cement it in my mind and found that a almost a month later, when exam period arrived, I could recall 80% of what had been discussed in that class, making only a quick revision necessary. Other handouts that I had not taken the time to study before and after the lecture seemed like brand new material, when it came to revision time.
I would also have to say, that reading the material beforehand increased my attention span during the class, because I knew what was coming next and I didn’t get myself confused nearly half as easily.
All in all, I think that pre-class preparation is definitely worth it, if you can afford the time. Even if you don’t think you can, just remember that it could save you hours of study later on when the final exams arrive.