Why do teachers give tests? From a teacher's perspective, it's all about feedback. Instructors need reliable information on how well students have understood the material. Student achievement depends on many factors--Was my classroom presentation appropriate? Was the pace of instruction appropriate? Did students have the prerequisite knowledge and skills to understand the concepts? Did the students have the opportunity for adequate time to practice and develop new skills? To some extent, teachers can get this information informally, based on student comments and polls of the class, but occasionally teachers need to see written evidence of what students can do. I use this information to continually refine and focus my teaching.
As a student, feedback is also essential. When you take a test, it is an opportunity to display what you know and have learned to do. Understandably, an upcoming test can cause some anxiety, especially if you are not a confident test taker. Although the class is designed so that there are many ways, including lab reports and projects, to show the knowledge you have acquired, tests and quizzes remain a primary source of monitoring student achievement. As a student, you have to ask yourself: Did I take advantage of opportunities to practice and develop new skills? Did I give myself adequate time to prepare for this test? Did I learn the skills and concepts expected for this assessment (as listed on the assignment and review sheets for the unit)? What does it mean to achieve success on a test?
Things to consider as a student:
Commit yourself to excellence. Make sure you come to class, and be focused on learning during class time. Ask questions in class, in cooperative groups, and after school.
Time management can be a critical factor in succeeding in this or any other course. Many of my students have a difficult time finding the appropriate balance between sports, clubs, jobs, friends, and other commitments. Also, many students have selected heavy course loads, with multiple Honors and AP level classes. (I usually advise students not to take more than 3 AP courses in any one academic year.) It can be difficult to find an appropriate balance if you've overscheduled. It's easy to get overloaded and burn out, so you need to manage your time carefully. I recommend using a planner or calendar to keep track of everything; note key assignments or test dates. On a daily basis, set aside a designated time to do homework. Keep on top of your homework every day, as it can be difficult to catch up if you fall behind. On a weekly basis, plan your study time and group time . All my tests are announced at the beginning of each unit, so you can start planning well in advance. Since the final exam is cumulative, you should start thinking about the final exam from the first day. Since we will be learning a great deal of new material this year, it's in your best interest to be in class regularly. Stay home if you're sick, of course. However, avoidable absences (such as extended family vacations, or optional field trips) make it much more difficult for you to keep up with the class.
I'm available for extra help almost every day after school. Remember--my primary goal is to help you learn! But please, come after school. I'm not a morning person, and with young children at home I can't get to school any earlier than my regular time. Also, I get easily flustered if I get a lot of questions when I first get to school, which is a very busy time of the day for me. (I have had students follow me to homeroom and start a barrage of questions before I even have a chance to take my coat off. Please be considerate. If I haven't had my coffee yet, I may just stare blankly at you.) However, I don't do house calls, and I can't help you if I don't see you. If you want extra help, you know where to find me. Some students like to schedule regular weekly or biweekly review sessions; other students like to come in on an as-needed basis. I won't think less of you if you come in for extra help--quite the contrary. It takes a certain level of self-awareness and maturity to say, "I need help with this", and I respect that.
I encourage you to advocate for yourself. If you need extra help, or an extension on an assignment (for a really, really good reason, mind), generally you, yourself, should be asking me--NOT your mom. I'm not saying that your parents can't contact me--they can, and should, when they are concerned about your progress in my class, or if there are serious issues that I need to know about. But the everyday stuff, like missing homework, or scheduling make-up quizzes or labs, or questions about how a particular assignment was graded? Those are the kinds of things *you* should discuss, in person, with me. Generally, when I give a due date, I expect work to be turned in on time, without excuses. I can sometimes be more flexible if there are compelling circumstances and I'm asked nicely, in advance. Don't push it, though! Don't expect me to be impressedif you ask for an extension, though, without that compelling reason.
Notetaking: The Cornell System Here's a succinct description of how to take good notes from class (it would also work for taking notes from a book)
How to Fail With Style and Grace Written primarily for college students, this brief essay is a humorous description of "what not to do."