I grade and proctor tests, specifically the short-answer questions for Soc 152A: Human Sexuality. I’ve been doing this for awhile now, and I thought I’d share with you what kinds of things are important. While some of the stuff is a bit class-specific, most of it should generalize out to other kinds of tests as well.
First and most importantly: study and go to lecture. Not much of an insider secret, but no amount of tips and tricks will get you a great grade if you don’t know the subject. You might as well try to lose weight by using diet shakes to wash down your chocolate cake while you watch TV. Do whatever works for you: flashcards, self-made study guides, highlighting, group meetings. And don’t skip on the sleep the night before. You’ll be slower and make stupid mistakes.
Next, when you’re taking the test, don’t cheat. We proctors can see you. We do take action, and I know of students that have been expelled. Best-case scenario is that you will get the benefit of the doubt and we’ll just separate you. Believe me, it is not a fun thing to be asked to move because we suspect you’re cheating in a silent room full of hundreds of people. Worst-case is of course getting reported and kicked out of college. Before you cheat, put things into perspective: will a bad grade really be that bad in relation to getting expelled?
When writing answers, remember that the purpose of the test is to convey that you can answer the question fully and completely. Everything else is just fluff. Don’t fill your answer with junk such as irrelevant information or complete BS. Irrelevant information just annoys us, gives us more to sift through, and we can’t give you points for it since you’re not really answering the question. Likewise we can see through BS, and shot-in-the-dark guessing shows us you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I could fill a book chapter with laughable guess answers graders have read. By guessing, you’ve demonstrated that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and we’ll be less generous with ambiguous answers.
Fluff also makes it harder for us graders to find the actual answer. If we can’t find the answer, you’ll get a worse grade. Unless it’s a literature class, you’re best off answering short-answer questions with bullet points and sentence fragments. Bullet points don’t waste time and space with padded sentences. If the question is, “What are some safer sex techniques?” don’t waste a sentence saying, “There are many safer sex techniques”. Give us the specific facts; bullet points give you more time and make your essay much easier to read. Easy to read means fewer missed points and happier, more lenient graders.
Speaking of making it easy to read, have you looked at your handwriting lately? Is it legible? Do even you have difficulty reading it? Try to write neatly. That goes double for your name and/or perm. If we can’t read it, we can’t give you the benefit of the doubt. Don’t resign with a hopeless, “I just have bad handwriting”. It’s a muscular skill that you’ve learned improperly and can relearn properly. Look on internet for articles about handwriting: paperpenalia.com has some pretty good tips.
If you get your tests back, check them and whine about them. (Sorry head graders who have to deal with reviewing test complaints!) Look for adding errors or potential missed points. You’ve spent hours studying and attending lectures, so spend a few minutes pouring over the test you got back. Graders make mistakes, just like you do. Think how poorly you perform hopped up on caffeine writing that last-minute, all-night paper. Double-checking is the least you can do to make sure you’ve been awarded all the points you deserved. Similarly, if you feel your GOLD grade is significantly different from how you performed, ask the professor about it