Tomorrow's the test, and your professor warned it would be the biggest thing since the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze.
You were sitting in the front row yesterday when he described this monster in all its gory details. Forty multiple-choice questions, just to "warm up the pencils," the professor had said. He smiled. You didn't.
"Oh, and there will also be a few short-answer questions, about a paragraph eachas a warm-up for the essay question."
"Essay? How long should that be?" you asked.
"As long as it takes to completely answer the question," was his reply. This isn't high school anymore, you thought to yourself as you walked back to your dorm room.
And now you're at your desk. It's 11 p.m. The monster's tomorrow. Scattered about the desk are a textbook, study guide, notes from class, and notes written to the guy next to you during class. You don't know where to start. It doesn't occur to you at the time, but far more goes into acing a test than what was studied the night before.
That's what the professors say, at least. They'll tell you there are essentially three areas that contribute to success on a given test, and even more importantly, to the knowledge you draw from each class as a whole:
- Know your professor.
- Manage your time.
- Study effectively.
Know Your Professor
"When you take a class, you need to master the professor as much as the material," says Dr. Rick Mann, vice president for academic affairs at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota.
Master a professor? How does that work?
Mann says successful students first identify the things a professor gives priority to, and then they figure out how to communicate this information back to the prof in the method he or she requires.
But how do you know what a prof is looking for? Just ask, Mann says. They won't bite. He says students often think wrongly that faculty are unapproachable and don't want to talk to them. But that's not true. He says he values visits from his studentseven when they don't have class-related questions.
"Go see a prof if for no other reason than so you'll know how to approach them when there is a reason," Mann says. "Stop by their offices often. Then when you really need help, it won't be so daunting. Professors really value student initiative."
But there's a catch: You need to master professors whether you like them or not. It's an important life skill, Mann explains.
"I always tell students, if you have a great prof, you're going to benefit from it; if you have a terrible prof, realize this may be the type of person you'll be working for when you're out of college," he says.
The good news is, most professors are not of the "terrible" variety, says Dr. Amiel Jarstfer, dean of the school of arts and sciences and an associate professor of biology at LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas.
"Professors are real people," he says. "And most of the time, they're real nice people."
Jarstfer says he likes to meet students so he can better understand who they are and where they're going. He says that aquiring this knowledge helps him help his students succeed.
The concept of connecting with professorsas well as with others on campusis so vital that it's the first thing Virginia Lettinga tells students about how to succeed in her class.
Lettinga, associate professor and director of academic enrichment and support at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, says that connections with friends and professors are key ingredients to a successful student.
"Those connections make you feel like you are in the swing of collegeif you feel like you belong here, you'll do well," Lettinga says. "Research shows that if you study like an animal but don't make friends or meet your profs, you'll likely drop out after your first year."
Manage Your Time