Education is a worthy thing, but the truth is as much as we may enjoy it, in the end our success is bound to our grades, and thus this must be a focus in our work. So, presuming you’re willing to put the work in, the question is, how can manage that time and those efforts best in order to get the grades you want and deserve? Here we gather some tips from experts on how to get the best returns on your academic efforts.
Course outlines/handouts/online postings
First, pay close attention to course outlines, and whatever material the professor makes available either online or, although it is rare these days, handed out in class. These are things the professor has taken the time to prepare, which means that the items contained within them are those things that for them, are the most important things for you to learn in this course. This means, when you get your exams or quizzes, these will be the topics that they cover.
Now, usually a course outline is pretty general, although not always, so take the time to read everything. It doesn’t take long, but it will introduce your mind to the course you are about to undertake. If you look at each major section of the course, and the subheadings it is broken into, you begin to create a file in your mind, and, as you begin to absorb this material it has a way of organizing itself into these files. Give yourself 20 minutes a week to review what was covered that week, and how it links back to the overall structure of the course. This is sometimes called ‘course mapping’. The more you refresh yourself on this, the easier it will all come back to you when exam time comes.
Break down your mark
In the course outline you’ll find a breakdown of how you will be graded, including a list of any essays, assignments, quizzes, lab projects, and exams. This list should also tell you how much of your final mark each item is worth. Tailor your efforts according to that. This means that if a quiz is worth 10% and an essay is worth 25% and you have to prepare for both at the same time, don’t spend more time than you need to on the quiz. By no means does this forget about the smaller stuff. Not at all. But, for example, if you’re doing the 20 minute review each week suggested above, you’ll already have something to fall back on when it comes to quizzes with only a brief review. Overall, when you look at where your mark comes from at the beginning of the course it allows you to plan ahead.
This means that if you don’t understand something, ask, but also, take advantage of any teaching assistance (TA) who offer office hours. Many prefer specific questions by email, which makes sense, as they are usually busy as well. However, sometimes a short visit with a TA face to face can be very productive, with assignments, or even just in understanding the important parts of the course material. If this opportunity is available, take advantage of it.
To get the grades you deserve you have to work hard, but the payoff also comes in working ‘smart’. Try these tips, and see if they can’t help you get the grades you want.