The Importance of Reading the Course Syllabus

A great way to start the semester is to begin by gathering all your course syllabi and reading through them.

The best course survival tip is to properly appreciate the role of the syllabus. The syllabus is the instrument your professor uses to set the course expectations. It lists how grades will be determined, when exams will be given and other important information for the class.

Carefully read the syllabus to answer these questions about the class:

All syllabi will include information on how to contact your course instructor.

This is very important information should you ever need to email questions after class to the instructor.

Why should a student want to take this course? How does it make a difference as part of the discipline or field of study?

How does it fit into your general education program?

What are the objectives of the course?

This is your opportunity to understand what you can expect from the course, decide whether the objectives meet your needs and what you'll need to do to meet the objectives. If you are not sure why you are taking the class, talk to your campus advisor about whether or how it counts toward your degree.

What are the assignments and when are they due?

You should record quiz/test-date and assignment due dates into whichever time-management system you are using, whether it is a calendar, hand-held device (like a smart phone) or daily planner.

When are the tests?

You want to know when the tests are so you can schedule study time in advance.

What books have been chosen?

Always look at the book titles, edition and author information. Check that the required texts listed in the syllabus match the books you bought.

Sometimes, the bookstore will list a book required for the course, but it really isn’t. The syllabus may state if the texts are supplemental or merely recommended. This allows you to decide if you need to purchase them. Because textbooks are so expensive, it is important to know if purchasing the book is absolutely necessary.

Are there important reminders about drop deadlines, accommodations for students with learning disabilities and other information?

Every syllabus will contain valuable information about important dates and resources for students.

What is the class grading policy?

Is the grading system point-based, letter-based, or something else like pass/fail?

What is the plagiarism and cheating policy?

You should always be familiar with the college’s policy so that you avoid any problems.


Just as you check a map for directions to various intersections along your journey, check the syllabus before each class for reading assignments.

All set for your first day of class? Learn some tips about how to get the most out of your college lectures.

How to Prepare for Your College Lecture Class