Study less and get better grades
Tell the teacher we're surfin'


Jamal Munshi, Sonoma State University, All rights reserved.
The nine tricks to success
Your most important resource is your professor and your access to this individual is well defined by scheduled class time and office hours. You can become an efficient user of this resource by following the simple tips and tricks I outline below. Once you do you will find that you are studying less and getting better grades. Here are the nine tricks to success.

Trick number 1: Sit in the front row
In more than twelve years of teaching here at SSU I have found that the average grade of the first row exceeds that of the last by about two grade points. Of course we must not fall into the trap of assumed causality here. Does sitting in the front "cause" good grades or do good students tend to sit in the front? Who knows? But why take a chance? The tuition is the same. So go ahead and sit upfront. Think of it as first class for the price of economy. Not everyone can sit in the front row, of course, but not everyone is reading this document and you are.

Trick number 2: Listen to the lecture
I often find while lecturing that students are so busy taking notes they haven't the faintest idea what I am saying. Please listen to the lecture. It is easy to do and it will give your grade a power boost you will not believe. Remember that you are not a secretary taking dictation. Your primary objective is to listen and learn. Of course you must also try to take notes but if you can't do both just listen and then jot down what you can remember right after class.

Trick number 3: Don't defer learning
Have you ever found yourself in a classroom situation where you don't really understand what is being presented but you'd rather just figure it out later at home? These moments are the poison pills that will destroy your GPA and eat up your life with hours of study and frustration. Don't let it happen to you. Take the time and make the effort to understand it right now and right here before you leave class. Even if you feel that you are not well prepared and it is your fault, just go ahead and grab the moment and don't let go until you understand.

Trick number 4: Ask questions
Make it a point to always ask at least one question in every class. If you are not used to doing this or if you are introverted you may suffer from a form of stage fright. Your pulse may go up, you might break out in a sweat, or your ears may feel hot. These symptoms are normal but once you break the ice they will go away and it will get easier and easier. Asking questions should become a natural part of your classroom experience. Once that happens a magical transformation will begin to occur in your grades because you will have become an active listener and a critical thinker. Your participation will increase the effectiveness of the lecture and you will get so much more learning done during class you won't have to study as hard at home.

Trick number 5: Don't miss class
If you are ever tempted to cut a class just remind yourself that for each hour of sweet freedom you enjoy during scheduled class time you commit four to five hours of study and aggravation outside of class to break even. It's a lousy deal and one you should never accept.

Trick number 6: Make use of office hours
Make it a point to visit each professor once a week during office hours starting from week #1. Make up questions to ask. If you can't come up with a question you like, then simply go over your lecture notes together. Think of office hours as an extension of the lecture. Five minutes a week with your professor can save an hour of painful cramming. If the posted office hours are not feasible for you let your professor know and set up an alternate "standing appointment" for a weekly visit.

Trick number 7: Make up your own test
The best way to prepare for a test is to make up your own test. Take your own test on the clock with the same time constraint as the real test. Then go over it with your professor during office hours. This simple little device will automatically boost your test scores without any further effort on your part.

Trick number 8: Read backwards
When you read a story you start at the beginning and work your way to the end where you get to find out "who done it". For a textbook, reverse the process. First read the questions at the end of the chapter. They indicate what the author thinks is important. Then read the summary of the chapter and see if you can answer any of the questions. Next, look over all pictures, tables, and figures and make another attempt to answer the questions. Finally, look through the text to answer the remaining questions. This technique will reduce the time you spend reading textbooks by an order of magnitude. For marketing purposes textbooks have to be of a certain size and format and these may actually get in the way of learning. If you start at the beginning of the chapter you may never get to the important parts.

Trick number 9: Neutralize the professor from hell
Avoid acrimony and personal battles with instructors you don't like. If you cannot drop the course devise a strategy to learn what you can and to pass the course. You must detach yourself emotionally from the situation and develop a strictly professional and business-like relationship with this person even though he or she is an asshole or an idiot. You have to be the adult in this relationship. It helps to adopt a surfer-dude mentality.