How to Earn an A

There is no secret or mystery to earning good grades. There are volumes of materials on the Internet about what constitutes a successful or good student. See, for example, Characteristics of a Successful Student maintained by Cuesta College in California.

Grades cannot be negotiated or bargained for: they can only be earned. Your final course grade in my class comprises the following:

  • Midterm exam that is worth 45 percent.
  • Final exam that is 20 percent cummulative and worth 55 percent.

All quizzes and exams are in multiple choice format, i.e., entirely objective. There are no essay questions or any other types of questions that can be graded arbitrarily. Your final grade for the course is precisely what you have objectively earned.

There is nothing mysterious or magical about why some students earn very high scores in my classes while others struggle to pass. The students who earn high scores have the following in common:

They are genuinely interested in the course content and, consequently, spend several hours every week reading and thinking about the assigned textbook material.

Because my exams are entirely conceptual, it is virtually impossible to cram for my exams by reading massive amounts of material a night or two before the exam.

Based on my experience here, if you cannot devote a bare minimum of three hours every week for reading and thinking about the course material, you should not plan on earning a grade higher than a “C” (numerical value 65). Students who cannot devote any time at all to studying the course material outside of class are at a very high risk of failing the class.

Key to Success

  1. Find some way, any way, to convince yourself that the material is worth studying. If you are not interested in the material and don't see it's usefulness to you personally or professionally, it is then very difficult to motivate yourself to read the textbook and pay attention in class.
  2. Set aside one to two hours of study time every day regardless of your schedule. Students who read just a few pages from the textbook every day and then allow themselves to think about and absorb the material will be more likely to understand and retain the concepts. Don't be afraid to use the dictionary when you come across an unfamiliar word. I am a native English speaker with a good vocabulary and I carry a dictionary around with me at all times!
  3. Write notes in the margin of the book to yourself as reminders as you read independently and highlight text that we've discussed together in class. This makes studying for the exams much easier.
  4. As you read the material, try to think of how this could be useful to you personally and professionally. As questions arise, write them down and allow yourself to ask those questions of me in class.
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