Tomorrow my students have their first midterm. Some of them were thankful to have a practice, some of them- well, not so much. Unfortunately, I’m afraid some of them won’t take the tips and advice that I’ve given to them to heart (I have a few “too cool for school” types). These are actually things that I noticed affect some people near and dear to me or things I’ve learned the hard way.

  • Study ahead of time. No brainer, but I’ve seen this happen numerous times
  • Do your homework. You just create extra stress by trying to learn things a few days before the exam when you should actually start learning the concepts when they’re introduced.
  • Actually do the physics problems like you would on the exam. Just looking over doesn’t help matters. You have to actually figure and struggle a little. Watching the teacher do examples is not learning. I find some students think that watching me repeatedly do examples will make things click. It more than likely will not. I probably could do examples until my hand bleeds and I die, and there’s a good chance that they would not learn the topic at hand that well. Note taking, in my opinion, can be passive.
  • Sleep well before an exam. Cramming the night before (or period) rarely helps matters and just adds to stress.
  • Try not to worry too much after you take the exam. It is literally out of your hands, and you more than likely need some time to recover and work on other schoolwork.
  • If you are concerned now about your grades, speak up! I think grades are like financial debt. It is bad when you are in bad places with them, but you cannot do anything about it until you acknowledge that. Also, like credit card companies or loan people, most professors/teachers are willing to work with students and help them figure out what to do and how to improve their grades. However, they aren’t going to be favorable with that if you are doing this last minute.
  • Believe you can succeed. Thinking you can’t do something is defeating, because you have already convinced yourself of that. Try to think that you can weather the class/exam.
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel. As much as I hope people enjoy school and class, I recognize that people end up taking classes that they don’t like, either because of requirements or because the class turned out differently than expected.
  • You have to keep your eye on the proverbial prize. You may hate the class/professor/topic, but you’re in a class and you should at least be concerned about passing so that you don’t lower your GPA/not meet requirements to graduate/etc. At the end of the day, your lack of progress in a class only affects you.
  • Be nice to those around you. Professors and teachers like helping people who have a good attitude, not the students who are hostile or apathetic. You don’t have to be genius to be liked by many people; effort and the right attitude means a lot. Even if you don’t love the person, you should definitely be nice. Yelling at them, treating them poorly, etc. is really just unprofessional (would you yell at your boss?) and doesn’t help your case for getting help or advice. No one likes dealing with nasty people.

Does anyone else have tips to succeed at school? I know to some people these sound corny, but I think you have to keep all these things in mind.