An 'A' grader's secret to success

Mighty Google can be mighty disappointing sometimes; try going to an actual library!

Saif Tahir August 30, 2012
Throughout my study span, I have seen fellow peers working hard to achieve some good grades to improve their grade point average (GPA). Few, out of many, were able to do it; the rest failed even when they did manage to get hold of the notes of their '4.o-GPA-friend'.

Where does the latter lot of students go wrong then?

Is it because the friend who you borrowed notes or books from might have left you in the dark and not provided you with the complete material?

Yes, we all have that thought. There will always be something kept from you, whether unintentionally or not. So just to be careful the next time around, here is are a few things that your A-grader friend will never tell you:

Hard work

You were studying more or harder than your peer, yet he’s been able to score an A and you a B only?

Well here lies the difference between a horse and a mule. Try to focus your efforts, put more effort on the topic your teacher emphasised on, try and look for small clues in the lecture. For example, if a teacher puts emphasis on one particular topic more than the rest from the outline of the curricula and revises it before the mid-term exams, well there is your hint. Grab it and start working on that particular topic with a little more focus.

This is you working smart.

Sitting in the front row trying to be extra efficient won’t help every time. Try matching your notes with your classmates, and copy what you miss during a lecture or for any lectures you have missed. Lastly do read the notes and whatever reading material you have at least once.

Remember that hard work always pays off.

Presentation matters

So you studied day and night, yet you couldn't score an A?

Well here’s your answer:
“You need to work on your presentation, child!”

Put yourself in your examiner’s shoes for a second; three days and 150 papers to grade. They won't be reading into your intellect and the quality of your content 100% of the time.  In fact, they will skim and scan your paper first. Whether it's an exam, quiz or a presentation, exhibiting the material and content in an appropriate fashion will take you a long way.

So, make their life easy and help yourself. Make headings, sub-headings, write quotes or figures in quotations. Don’t scribble and scrawl on your answer sheet- write in a legible script, within margins and don't forget to draw a line when you’ve finished answering.

A little extra effort

There is a fine line between putting in a little effort and being over efficient. A teacher, no matter how staunch, will always appreciate a little extra effort from your side.

Be outrageous, choose an unconventional topic and go to an actual library for your research. Mighty Google can be mighty disappointing sometimes.

Chappafying (copy pasting) content from Wikipedia won't work anymore since most of the professors ask for softcopies and have access to (leading paid plagiarism site). Spend the last 15 minutes arranging your material in the assignment, make it look appealing.

Remember, reading the topic before it has been discussed in class is a plus point and increases the possibility of an ‘A’ which we are all always trying so hard to get.

Developing a rapport with your professor

No matter how professional and unbiased your professor looks, he’s still a human being and wants respect in return. Saying hello while passing by or randomly walking in to his office for a small talk won’t hurt your ego or damage your reputation. Try doing some homework on your professors, find out what area they belong to, what languages they speak or what their interests are. Belonging to the same native area and speaking the same language helps a lot in trivialising the communication barrier. In fact, your professor will be pleased to entertain your queries and requests in the future as well. This can help in him/her in getting to know you better and really understanding where you are having problems, and how to help you out with them.

Trust me; it is always good to have a casual, yet respectable connection to your professor.

Charm and be charmed

The most important and yet the trickiest of all is mastering this technique.

Unfortunately I have seen many taking leverage, sometimes disproportionately, because of this but not all professors value this as much as others.

Try appreciating your professor’s hard work in delivering the lecture and helping you in your assignments rather than admiring the way they look or dress. Ask him if you can be of any help. Submitting folders or copying his notes will help you stay in their good books and they will start recognising your efforts more.

Sharing bumper sticker or pictures on Facebook can get you likes and comments but cannot help you score a graduate admission in a ranking university. In the real world, the one past the boundary walls of our university campus, hard work counts 80% of the time, the rest lies in how good you are at social networking and of course luck.

Focus on the hard work first and then look upon the rest.

In the words of Alex Rodriguez:
“Enjoy your sweat because hard work doesn't guarantee success, but without it you don't have a chance”.

Read more by Saif here. 
Saif Tahir The writer is an academic who likes to capture life through both the lens and the pen.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.