Survey Results: No Pre-Arrival Reading Received

Following on from the previous two posts relating to our pre-arrival reading research, our final post looks at the results of people who did not receive pre-arrival reading and how they went about preparing for starting university despite this. 

Out of the 115 responses from the questionnaire, a staggering 63.5% did not receive a reading list in advance of beginning university.This is 27% more than people who received a reading list. The survey continued to explore the methods resources used to see how students prepared.

When asked if they tried to get books for their course anyway, 54.8% of students responded with no. When asked why they did not try to get books for their course, there was a mixed response of answers. The three most popular answers were:

1. The books were too expensive.

2. Not wanting to buy books before the course began

3.  Felt as though it was not necessary


The most popular response identifies a key issue – the textbooks required for undergraduate studies appear to be too expensive for some students to afford. The responses given under ‘other’ showed that students did not know what books to buy.

On the other hand, 45.2% of students answered yes to trying to get books for their course anyway. There were a lot of mixed results on how students decided to try and get books for their course.

The most popular methods were through research on the university website and internet research. Those who did research on the university website looked for previous reading lists, module content, and module handbooks to find relevant reading materials.

On the other hand, using internet research some students decided to look at other university websites which were of a similar ranking and provided the same course; students also went on the popular website to get advice from previous students.

Surprising results showed a number of students contacting their tutors for the course in advance to get recommendations and essential readings.

A lot of students described how they purchased their books in advance, despite not having a specific list. Showing a mix of both online purchases, primarily from Amazon, and books bought in store too. Quite a few students also used previous and current members of the course to research and purchase books. This shows a direct correlation with the books themselves being too expensive, many second year students sell on their course textbooks at a heavily subsidised rate.

The questions in the survey then steered towards if students prepared for university in other ways other than using reading lists. The results showed 58.3% of students did not prepare themselves in other ways, leaving 41.7% of students preparing in advance. YouTube videos and talking to current/previous students were the most popular methods of preparation.

When asked if students wished they had done more preparatory reading before starting university the results were very close. With 57 responses, 49.6% answering yes and 58 responses, 50.4% stating no. As there is no clear result as to why people felt as though they should have done more, we turn to the results of the question what else do you think would be helpful in preparing for your course?

The most important response was that there needs to be more information available about the topics covered within the modules of first year. A number of students also wanted to know more about their topics in-depth, that information being provided in module handbooks and further content details to help learn key concepts in advance. To accompany this, there should be reading lists provided and given at an earlier date.

The reading list needs to be clearer as there seemed to be a range of confusion regarding which books they specifically needed and which books were additional/wider reading. A small minority of students wanted the readings for the first few weeks to be printed out in advance, whilst they waited for their books to arrive.

Clear communication about the skills needed and the type of assessments that students should expect was an additional requirement. Many felt they needed advice on how to write academic essays, using specific referencing styles to their faculty, and more specifically the level of particular subjects they needed.

Interestingly, 8% of students felt as thought they needed to be pre-warned about the level of maths they would be expected to use. Many did not study further maths or maths A-level and felt as though they were at a disadvantage, despite it not being a key course requirement to have this qualification. Student feedback was a suggestion to fix the above problems, asking for students to give honest talks on their experiences with the course, and realistic explanation of what to expect.

Overall the survey showed that despite the majority of students not receiving a reading list, many students prepared in a variety of different ways to ensure they felt prepared. Those who did not prepare in advance gave constructive feedback as to why they did not want to prepare, with the main issue being a lack of understanding of what to buy or the product being too expensive.

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