Grades Phase – a more optimistic approach

So now that the exam phase is over, it’s time for the grades phase. And to be honest, I was quite disappointed with my performance in 3 out of the 6 courses that I’m doing this semester. HOWEVER, this time I’m going to take some strong protective measures in preparation for the next upcoming exam phase. Read on because I believe I have compiled a very compact and intense midterm-prep-list. (Hopefully I’ll be able to  write another post proving that it worked for me.)

1- Seeing the performance
And by this I mean requesting to see your own paper with the professor and actually knowing what went wrong and how their grading criteria is. Do they give marks for working? Do they need to see final answers even if incorrect? Do they just need to see knowledge and understanding through working? Sit with them and calmly go over each and every mistake in the paper and mark very well the type of errors that you fell into.

2- Making a report
Make a report about your performance. For example I noticed that I made various mistakes on questions that require a derivation or a proof. So I wrote in my report that these questions need to be worked on during the studying period. There was also another problem with establishing relationships between graphs for one of my courses, so I went home that same day and watched tutorials and actually solved questions on the topic. You have to resolve issues quickly before you forget that you even have them. Before the next midterm comes, you have to have highlighted your problems and worked on solving them.
So make a report about each and every course and the areas you need to work on improving, then, on the last page of the report, write down goals for the next midterms, write about your overall performance, what mistakes you shouldn’t have fallen into, which mistakes were silly and which ones were major. You get the point.

3- Practice makes perfect
The most cliche but the most true statement of all time. The more you “solve” the better you become. I, for example, have 70+ questions at the end of each chapter in my Linear signals and systems course. I can’t do all 70 night before the exam because:
a) I won’t study any other chapter
b) I will not sleep
SO, I have decided to divide the questions into daily portions. So that if I manage to finish all the questions for all the chapters coming in the midterm, I’d have time to ask about the ones that I couldn’t solve. And this is immensely important. Allocating time to get your questions answered. Plan ahead of time so that you compile all the concepts and questions that you got stuck in, and get them answered before the assessment/test.
This applies for assignments but for assignments I’d like to add a key tip. START the assignment the day it’s posted. And divide the assignment in portions and again make sure you finish before the due date so that you have time to ask about the stuff you couldn’t solve. I usually start assignments a day or two before the due date and this is very wrong because yes, I tackle all assignment questions alone, but if I happened to get stuck, I know the timing is tight and so I either copy the answers from somewhere or leave them blank. Learning outcome: big fat zero. So yes, I’m working on this too.

4- Revising with a friend
Arrange for a review session with friends, and if you can arrange a session with the teaching assistant of the course, even better. I’ve only realized recently that they’re important because when you explain or go over the material with your friend, the info sort of sticks there, and likewise the other way around. Top tip: divide the material between you and let each person explain their material on the review day.

5- Utilize your best potential
I have a picture memory, and you’d say it’s an excellent trait, but it doesn’t really help me much because there’s nothing to memorize in my courses. However, I use this memory when I write my own notes while studying. Whether it’s a formula or a proof or a solving strategy. The drawback with picture memory however is that you either see the picture in your mind as you solve during the exam, or you don’t. So exert some effort in looking at the notes/equations for a long enough time. Make sure you use all your senses in class and while studying. The more the better.

6- Don’t take things for granted
So you can solve systematic questions really well. That does NOT mean you practice them less. Professors love twisting easy questions, and so if you’re good at something, make sure you’re REALLY good at it and know it from the inside out.

7- Lifestyle during and before exams
And this tip actually worked for me already. Exercise, healthy food, moderate amounts of sleep, and doing any one thing that you really enjoy doing once or twice during the week. These 4 will not only change your mindset, but will help you organize your day better, and become more productive.

Having said that, I will do what I preach and hopefully write another post after my second wave of midterms.

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