Tests….exams…..groan…..groan louder. How do you get your act together to get an exam completed successfully? Well, what kind of grade do you want?
If you are looking for a C or D, you might try to listen occasionally in class but don’t take any notes. You are going to depend on your ability to remember everything the instructor says. In eleven years of teaching college, I have met exactly ONE student who did not need to take notes, but he hung on my every word and looked at my Power Points as if they were the Holy Grail.
If you want to achieve a B, you will take some notes but never actually read the book. You might skim it once…….You will wait until the night before the test to study and perhaps you will even pull an all-nighter. I saw a girl at the University of Maryland College Park who decided to meet with a study group at the library the night before a day of exams. She was wandering around, showing off her really cute outfit to everyone she knew…..but I didn’t see her sit down and actually study the whole time she was there. She still planned on staying up all night, but was more concerned about her shiny hair, perfect makeup, and (like I said) really cute outfit to actually accomplish anything.
If your goal is an A, then let’s talk. You plan for the exam starting at the beginning of the semester. You read the chapter before you get to class so that you have some understanding of the material, you take notes as the professor speaks, and you make a special note of anything that she seems to be spending extra time on. When you get back home, you go over your notes and make sure that you have understood the concepts she explained in class. If you are unclear, you check what the textbook says and ask the professor via email or at the next class meeting about anything that is muddy. You study throughout the semester, rather than just waiting till the last minute. You also review your notes the night before the exam.
If the instructor offers extra credit, take it. For example, I lecture on various aspects of communication and then show an episode of House, M.D. or a movie (like “Arrival”) to illustrate what I have been talking about. As I show the DVD, I talk about how that applies to the lecture. (Yes, it is annoying for me to talk over the DVD, but that’s how I show students how the DVD ties into the lecture!) The students then have the chance to write a two-page essay that incorporates the textbook chapters that we have been studying (and that will be on the exam) and the DVD. They can earn up to an entire letter grade added to the exam by writing the essay. I have gotten them into the book, shown them how to write an essay (we got over that in class), and given them the chance to earn a higher grade. Like I said, take the extra credit opportunity if one is there. You never know when you will have a bad day and need it.
If you take my suggestions, you cannot help but get a better grade on your exam. If it is too late to start at the beginning of the semester, start now and pull up your less-than-desirable grade. Let me know how it goes!