Category Archives: Just Do It

How To Get An A+

I asked some students how they earned their “A+” mark in my courses. The following are their responses.

“What I do to study is as followings,

– I attend all lectures and complete reading the textbook chapter up for discussion before each class

– While reading the textbook, I will highlight areas that I feel are most important and then I will condense the chapter into my own, typed up notes

– I do the same with my lecture notes and will cross reference the lecture with the corresponding chapter, so I can focus on the areas emphasized in both

– With my condensed chapter and lecture notes, I’ll create “practice quizzes” for myself on all of the material, in order to best know the concepts

While my study process is time consuming, I do feel that taking the time to condense my notes and then create quizzes, is personally the best way for me to retain information and perform better on the exams.” — H.

“First I do all assigned reading prior to lecture and highlight as I read. I then attend all lectures and take handwritten notes. After class or work I type-up all my notes in the library or on my home computer, I find this helps me review what I’ve written down and what was discussed in class. It also allows me to Google names, movies, books, or concepts that may have been unfamiliar or unclear when mentioned during lecture.

About a week before a Midterm or test I will go through every chapter that is going to be on the exam and make a question sheet asking questions pertaining to everything I highlighted. I also make a separate answer key sheet with all the answers. I do the same thing with lecture content and any Powerpoint slides that may be posted until eventually I end up with a list from anywhere between 100-300 questions. I then go through the questions and memorize all the answers…this forces me to use recall. I find when I only review/read-over my notes it tricks me into thinking I know more than I do and I don’t remember the content as well.

I’m also very lucky I have a super sweet and patient boyfriend who helps me study. I often give him my question and answer sheets and get him to ask me all the questions and have me answer them. He’ll give me hints when I’m stuck and we’ll usually go through them several times until I feel confident about the material. I find this helps a lot because it requires me to teach/explain concepts to him and saying the answers out loud I find also helps me remember more effectively. It also makes me put certain concepts and definitions into my own words and tie it to my real life with examples. I used to do flash cards but got tired of cutting up paper into squares and found writing out a question list with an answer key was doing the same thing just more efficiently. I find the recall is what’s important for me. This study technique probably sounds crazy and obsessive, and it’s definitely time-consuming but it gets me straight As.” — J.

“To achieve an A+ in your class, my method consists of writing down everything you mention in class, reading the text book, making notes on/summarizing the textbook’s information, and reviewing/studying my notes before the exam. It really just comes down to how familiar one is with the material. To achieve high marks in any class for that matter, you have to do the work during the semester. I find that leaving everything to the last minute doesn’t allow information to sink in as effectively because one isn’t as familiar with the concepts to remember them in time for the exam. This is why it’s important to read the material early on, be attentive in class, and give yourself a couple of days before the exam to review the material you studied. Doing this can definitely help someone improve their marks for this course.” — S.

“I find that getting a good mark in this class isn’t that difficult. The first thing I do is make sure I show up to every class and take notes. When it comes to studying I start a few days before the exam to space out how much I try to memorize at once. For example, the last midterm had 5 chapters to cover, so I started studying 4 days prior. I did two chapters each day and on the fourth day did a review. When I’m studying I re-write my notes by hand (for some reason writing them out again helps me memorize) and then just re-read and re-read until it sticks. I put much of my focus onto what you say in class as you highlight the key points from the reading. I don’t waste my time going over other details that weren’t mentioned in lecture.” — A.

“Contrary to the advice everyone seems to give, I have never taken notes & I feel I’m better off because of it. I’m not any good with multitasking so I find taking notes only serves to distract me from giving my full attention to the lecture itself. If it’s absolutely necessary to record what the prof is saying, do so with your phone’s audio recording device (if permitted). In truth, the most important tip doesn’t really pertain to “studying”, but it’s to do with attendance – not only do you need to make it to class, you have to sit as close to the front as possible. I always sit in the front row seats because I know I’m going to get distracted if someone in front of me has their laptop out with reddit and tumblr on the screen. Lastly, I leave the studying to the last minute. Again, it goes against what everyone advises, but I have a terrible memory and doing all my studying a week beforehand isn’t doing me any favours in remembering terms & so on. You could say I could study for an entire week, but if I start too early and overdo it, I get too bored to revisit the material when it matters most – right before the exam. In essence, cramming for exams & never taking notes is the system that works for me, believe it or not – and I’m on the dean’s list.” — B

“At the beginning of the semester, I kept on track with readings and made my own notes as I read and highlighted. During lectures, I would write down what you indicated was important from each chapter. When it came to studying for the midterms, I would re-read the chapters and my notes until I was very familiar with the material. Attending class was rewarding because the midterms did closely reflect the lectures. I find that it’s easier to maintain my study habits throughout the course of the semester rather than rely on only doing well on the final. Of course, this takes a lot of dedication, planning, and time outside of class to do. As well, in general I find it’s best to put the same amount of effort into all of my courses, regardless if it’s an elective or not; it’s not enough to assume that I will automatically do well in an elective.”

“I first and foremost made sure that I attended every single lecture and took notes diligently. I also made sure that I read and highlighted every chapter of the required texts. From the chapters in the textbook and my class notes I would make flashcards and create my own questions to test my knowledge of what was covered during the lectures and what was highlighted in the required chapters in the text. In short the most important thing for me was always being in class and taking notes as well completing all the readings. Going to class helped clarify content in the textbook that was difficult to understand. Going to class also made it easier to understand what content was most important by recognizing concepts that were covered both during the lectures and the readings.”

“I attempt to read (when possible) the required chapter before attending class, highlighting passages that I believe to be important as I read. During class, any passages that are referenced directly by the professor are highlighted as well. When studying for exams, I re read what has been highlighted and the summary for each chapter when applicable. I make small notes summarizing the key themes of each chapter so that if a question arises in an exam that I do not know the answer to, I can make an educated guess based on recurring themes in the textbook and from the lectures.”

“Before even studying the most important thing I do is attend every class and depend first and foremost on the notes that I personally took. I truly believe its true when they say that sitting in the front row truly makes the difference. I make sure to have all the chapters read and summarized before attending each class. My studying habits consist of me taking the time to type all the notes I took in class; I literally write down almost everything the professor says, including most of the examples he provides. Secondly, I type down the chapter summaries that I made throughout the weeks. Having everything typed, I then sit down and begin to read, understand, and then memorize. As I got through the notes I’ve made, I begin to highlight what I seem to lack in understanding, and I then go back to the book and re-read the section until I finally understand. I do truly believe that and A+ is achievable in Professor Strangelove’s class. One thing to keep in mind when actually doing a multiple choice exam, is that you must ALWAYS go with your first instinct. I’ve learned that it is important to learn to trust yourself and your choices.”

“For study techniques: I made sure I attended all classes (and if I missed any I would get the notes from a peer), read each chapter at least once (sometimes twice), typed up and reviewed my lecture notes, wrote out and reviewed notes from the readings (which is where the bulk of my studying was allocated), and reviewed the YouTube notes you posted online. When it came to the actual exam, I read the questions slowly and guessed the answer before I looked at the options (so that I was not easily swayed) and finally checked my answers over for any possible careless errors.”

“I attempt to read (when possible) the required chapter before attending class, highlighting passages that I believe to be important as I read. During class, any passages that are referenced directly by the professor are highlighted as well. When studying for exams, I re read what has been highlighted and the summary for each chapter when applicable. I make small notes summarizing the key themes of each chapter so that if a question arises in an exam that I do not know the answer to, I can make an educated guess based on recurring themes in the textbook and from the lectures.”

“In order to prepare for your exams while reading I made sure to underline quotes (while making sure to underline who stated the quote-seeing as many of your questions ask who said what) and identify main themes and concepts present throughout the chapter. When studying I made sure to craft a study guide which synthesized all of my notes in class and my notes based on the reading. I broke down the study guide by chapter and also added a section based on some of your rants on counter discourse, capitalism, ideology etc. I also made sure to define key terms and provide examples for each term. I also condensed important quotes by author so it would be easier to identify who said what. (For instance, Baudrillard spoke mostly about the hyperreal, or Foucault on confession, Pierre Bourdieau on taste).”

“Being a high performance athlete that trains upwards of 26 hours a week, I don’t usually have too much free time (or energy) to spare outside of the classroom. That’s why I would say that not only going to every class but taking diligent, comprehensive notes and keywords down was instrumental to my success in the course. I would then review my notes at the end of the day to make sure I understood everything and the learning took care of itself!”

An A+ is possible in my classes, but you must work as hard as the best of your peers.

And the best are excellent.

Dr. Strangelove