A Lesson in Studying and Preparation

In a college International Economics class, we had three exams of equal weight throughout the quarter. Each exam consisted of five essay questions. There was no minimum length required, but you had to answer the question fully, which meant it took about two pages to properly answer each question…plus or minus.

About a week before the first exam, the professor gave out a list of 20 questions. He told us he would pick five of these questions for the exam. The list of questions was daunting. I studied some of the questions, but not all of them. Honestly, I probably studied four to six of the questions, tops.

On test day, by luck, I was prepared for three of the five questions. I say “luck” because I had chosen those three questions to study. I got nearly full credit on those three questions and nearly no credit on the other two. My test score was in the low 70s.

When the professor handed out the exams two distinct things caused an epiphany for me. First, since I earned nearly full credit on the questions for which I had prepared and almost no credit on the questions for which I did not prepare, it hit me (duh!) that if I just prepared for all 20 questions, I could have easily earned an A.

Second, I expected that my score on the exam (low 70s) would be in the lower half of all scores. It turns out I had one of the highest scores in the class. During class and after, my fellow students complained profusely about how difficult the exam was. Complain. Complain. Complain. My only thought was, “are you kidding me, he gave us the test questions! We should had all earned an A. He gave us the test questions!!”

For the remaining two exams, I prepared for every question the professional handed out. I earned an A on the last two exams and an A in the class. Epiphany!

I wonder what the professor thinks every time he grades an exam.