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Poll

What do you guess on tests if unsure or out of time?

A
- 1 (5.9%)
B
- 2 (11.8%)
C
- 3 (17.6%)
D
- 1 (5.9%)
I choose randomly.
- 10 (58.8%)

Total Members Voted: 17

Voting closed: May 31, 2019, 12:00:17 PM


Author Topic: Exam strategies  (Read 1035 times)

jakeroot

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2019, 10:55:13 AM »

Did anyone else just straight-up take college courses in high school? My 11th and 12th grades were at a community college, earning college credit. I would have graduated with an AA but I didn't get credit in all of my classes. Turns out, college requires a bit more discipline than getting on a school bus to go to high school.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2019, 11:01:24 AM »

I actually found my first semester of college to be not that much different from high school, at least regarding how classes were taught. (Surprisingly, I had no lectures my first semester.)
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2019, 11:11:10 AM »

Did anyone else just straight-up take college courses in high school? My 11th and 12th grades were at a community college, earning college credit. I would have graduated with an AA but I didn't get credit in all of my classes. Turns out, college requires a bit more discipline than getting on a school bus to go to high school.
I am taking a collage level corse,just not in collage though. At my old school (before I moved), I would be concurrently enrolled tho, as they only go to precancerous in their math dept.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2019, 12:02:02 PM »

Did anyone else just straight-up take college courses in high school? My 11th and 12th grades were at a community college, earning college credit. I would have graduated with an AA but I didn't get credit in all of my classes. Turns out, college requires a bit more discipline than getting on a school bus to go to high school.

I never did--it was not an attractive option because it would have added another attendance center I had to visit at least once a week, and my high school was already on the opposite side of a medium-sized city--but I've heard of former high school classmates whose children now do that.  I also talk occasionally with a parent who home-schools and pushes her children to get their associate's degrees by the time they reach high school graduation age.

College is not unlike high school in that lower-division courses are about seat time.  Moreover, you are also staking your GPA, which is a big deal if you plan graduate study as a traditional student because many scholarship programs have GPA cutoffs.  If you have the self-discipline and the intellectual capacity, testing out for credit after a period of self-directed independent study is more time-efficient and the stakes involved are lower since failure to meet the test score cutoff for credit will not affect your GPA.

Entry-level college does teach soft skills, such as accommodating unreasonable professors, that are useful in workplaces with layered management structures.  But as a general rule, your success or otherwise in any intellectual endeavor will hinge on your ability to teach yourself things when there is no external taskmaster to motivate you.
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jakeroot

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2019, 03:26:07 PM »

Entry-level college does teach soft skills, such as accommodating unreasonable professors, that are useful in workplaces with layered management structures.  But as a general rule, your success or otherwise in any intellectual endeavor will hinge on your ability to teach yourself things when there is no external taskmaster to motivate you.

Part of me thinks the program I did was a bad idea, but in the end, I graduated high school fully understanding all the complexities of college. Plus, I had 80 credits all of which would likely transfer to another local college. My GPA went down over time, but has since gone way back up. That's one of the tougher things, as you're affecting your college GPA when you may not be able to handle the pressure. If you can, and readily seek assistance when required, it's awesome how much money it can save you. But it's not always worth it, if you lack the drive (as you'll end up digging yourself a hole).

You also have to be really social, as you'll leave a lot of friends behind. Along with clubs, sports, etc. You can still participate in them, but it's harder with such strange schedules.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #30 on: May 07, 2019, 07:40:24 PM »

The last exam I took was the MPRE as part of the bar exam in 1998, but plumbing the depths of memory, I recall there were almost always throwaway answers intended to entice stupid people. For example, tests like the SAT with fill-in-the-blank questions would include obviously incorrect choices like "would have" or "should have," which anyone taking the SAT should presumably be educated enough to recognize as nonsensical. The multiple-choice part of the bar exam always has constitutional law questions where "General Welfare Clause" is an option, and it's obviously false because there is no "General Welfare Clause" in the US Constitution.

Things like that are easy. I used to get irrationally worried if there were too many of the same letter response in a row (five "D" answers, say), even if I knew they were all correct. If I genuinely didn't know, I'd usually skip the question and come back to it because sometimes a later answer might make me think of something. Or I'd do as Oscar describes, narrowing it down and then making an educated guess. If I were about to run out of time I'd just guess if needed.

I can't say I really remember AP exams in any detail. I took them, of course; I took five of them my senior year (English, European history, US government, comparative government, and Latin lyric poetry) and three my junior year (US history, Latin Vergil, and Calculus BC), but I'll be damned if I can remember what all of them were. I did OK on them because I started college with a full year's worth of credit from those AP exams, 29 hours of credit, but I also recall my junior year I got a "1" on the Calculus BC exam. I told my parents it was a waste of money for me to take that exam based on my bad grades in math classes, but they insisted.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #31 on: May 08, 2019, 03:20:49 AM »

When I was doing my doctoral classwork in the early '90's, there was a comprehensive exam at the end of the first year that one had to pass before the second phase of classes -- and then another after all one's classes were completed and prior to even discussing your dissertation.  Since those who started at the same time as myself were grouped into a "cohort" -- 16 strong -- we spent much of the summer having strategy meetings before the initial test, held the last week of August just prior to the beginning of classes.  Rather than pour over all the material from all the common classes (the first if not feasible prospect), we decided (and apparently were the first cohort to do so) to ascertain common threads permeating those classes, some of which clearly indicated common biases among the faculty.  From that we synthesized "themes" that repeatedly popped up (this was a public policy program).  The prior pass rate (according to the program's dean) was about 65-70% -- but 15 out of 16 passed; the only one who didn't had missed a substantial number of classes because of personal/family issues.   Seeing as how the questions posed on the test actually did reflect a composite set of faculty preferences as to both subject matter and POV, it was a decidedly sound strategy.

Since the 2nd test was tailored by those faculty you'd selected for your dissertation committee -- after the 2nd year classes in your chosen area of interest, we were individually on our own.  That one was tough -- a written exam followed by an oral defense.  I scraped by OK -- but it definitely gave me ideas about where my dissertation should & shouldn't tread!   
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 08:14:18 PM by sparker »
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #32 on: May 08, 2019, 02:18:42 PM »

I suppose there was a name change in your school somewhere along the line, because the class and the exam has been called APUSH as far back as 1996.
Maybe.  It was always "AP United States History" since I started; shortening it to "AP American" might just be because many people would later take AP European History (shortened to simply "Euro").  We might not have had as developed a culture for AP classes as was typical; I don't think I ever heard of someone taking six AP classes in one year, for example (which would actually be an AP for every single class, if they kept a free period for lunch).  There were a few anomalies in terms of corresponding classes to exams; we didn't have an AP World History class, but the exam was offered to everyone in 10th grade social studies (it was meant for the enriched section students, but everyone was offered the chance to take it) because NY's curriculum is similar.  The AP Comparative and US Government exams are also combined into a single AP Government and Politics course (AKA "AP Gov/Pol").

Quote
I'm also surprised New York does a form of the DBQ; by any chance, are they similar? The other four DBQ points are a claim, context (describe the time period prior to/during/after the time period listed on the prompt), outside evidence (name a historical event not mentioned in the documents & support your claim), and complexity (provide nuance; either by undermining an opposing viewpoint or linking the prompt to another APUSH theme or time period)
It's reasonably similar.  Same basic format, at least.  It's been 10-11 years since I've dealt with one, though.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #33 on: May 08, 2019, 10:29:46 PM »

^^^^^

I recall when I was in high school, the AP Government class was a single class with two AP exams. The US portion was one of the easiest classes I ever took at any level of school. I recall the European history course's full name as being AP Modern European History because the teacher usually abbreviated it as "APMEH"; most of us called it "AP European." (The teacher noted how it was "the ultimate high school elective class" because it was not required for anything, and indeed one guy took it pass/fail. I didn't do that because I wanted the extra .5 of a point on my GPA to help make up for my math grades. I should have taken calculus pass/fail.)

Man, I hadn't thought much about high school in many years. I'm not so sure I like that this thread is prompting me to think about it. On the whole it's not prompting bad memories, but thoughts of those years sometimes take me to a very dark place in my memories.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 10:32:34 PM by 1995hoo »
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #34 on: May 09, 2019, 02:43:32 AM »

Nothing remotely similar to "Modern European History" was even taught in my school. Hell, we couldn't even get modern American history—every history class just rehashed the same period from 1776 to about 1870 or so.

When I was doing my doctoral classwork in the early '90's, there was a comprehensive exam at the end of the first year that one had to pass before the second phase of classes -- and then another after all one's classes were completed and prior to even discussing your dissertation.  Since those who started at the same time as myself were grouped into a "cohort" -- 16 strong -- we spent much of the summer having strategy meetings before the initial test, held the last week of August just prior to the beginning of classes.  Rather than pour over all the material from all the common classes (the first if not feasible prospect), we decided (and apparently were the first cohort to do so) to ascertain common threads permeating those classes, some of which clearly indicated common biases among the faculty.  From that we synthesized "themes" that repeatedly popped up (this was a public policy program).  The prior pass rate (according to the program's dean) was about 65-70% -- but 15 out of 16 passed; the only one who didn't had missed a substantial number of classes because of personal/family issues.   Seeing as how the questions posed on the test actually did reflect a composite set of faculty preferences as to both subject matter and POV, it was a decidedly sound strategy.

Since the 2nd test was tailored by those faculty you'd selected for your dissertation committee -- after the 2nd year classes in your chosen area of interest, we were individually on our own.  That one was tough -- a written exam followed by an oral defense.  I scraped by OK -- but it definitely gave me ideas about where my dissertation should & shouldn't tread!   

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!
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J N Winkler

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #35 on: May 09, 2019, 11:34:15 AM »

Nothing remotely similar to "Modern European History" was even taught in my school. Hell, we couldn't even get modern American history—every history class just rehashed the same period from 1776 to about 1870 or so.

In my high school, the college preparatory curriculum (I am not sure about the requirements for others) called for one year of World History and two years of US History with the year break being placed at around 1865 and the second year doubling as preparation for the AP US History exam.  I felt I was idling in World History, which did not tell me much that I did not already know, and I wonder if my time would not have been better spent doing AP European History as an independent study.

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!

One criticism I often hear--and I believe there is some truth to it--is that formal K-12 education in the US is generally about preparing students to take direction from hierarchical superiors in occupational settings.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #36 on: May 09, 2019, 12:13:39 PM »

Nothing remotely similar to "Modern European History" was even taught in my school. Hell, we couldn't even get modern American history—every history class just rehashed the same period from 1776 to about 1870 or so.

When I was doing my doctoral classwork in the early '90's, there was a comprehensive exam at the end of the first year that one had to pass before the second phase of classes -- and then another after all one's classes were completed and prior to even discussing your dissertation.  Since those who started at the same time as myself were grouped into a "cohort" -- 16 strong -- we spent much of the summer having strategy meetings before the initial test, held the last week of August just prior to the beginning of classes.  Rather than pour over all the material from all the common classes (the first if not feasible prospect), we decided (and apparently were the first cohort to do so) to ascertain common threads permeating those classes, some of which clearly indicated common biases among the faculty.  From that we synthesized "themes" that repeatedly popped up (this was a public policy program).  The prior pass rate (according to the program's dean) was about 65-70% -- but 15 out of 16 passed; the only one who didn't had missed a substantial number of classes because of personal/family issues.   Seeing as how the questions posed on the test actually did reflect a composite set of faculty preferences as to both subject matter and POV, it was a decidedly sound strategy.

Since the 2nd test was tailored by those faculty you'd selected for your dissertation committee -- after the 2nd year classes in your chosen area of interest, we were individually on our own.  That one was tough -- a written exam followed by an oral defense.  I scraped by OK -- but it definitely gave me ideas about where my dissertation should & shouldn't tread!   

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!

In this case, we had to comprehend and analyze the material that had been presented to us during core coursework -- I should have prefaced this with the notation that the first year concentrated on core subjects rather than independent studies -- although the core constituted 2/3 of the classes taken the first year and could be augmented by initial electives.  What the concentration of our summer study group regarding themes common to the core classes as presented by the professors actually accomplished was not to bypass the actual learning of the material but rather to anticipate the questions asked and how they would be phrased (these were all essay exams rather than simple choices).  Trust me on this -- once we determined what was going to be asked, we doubled down on that material -- which constituted a high percentage of the actual nine months' worth of classwork -- but with the advantage that we determined how it would be asked -- and the basic direction of the responses that the exam graders would prefer. 

The rationale for doing so was quite simple and straightforward:  we were all going for our PhD's; if we couldn't realistically analyze the test process itself, we probably didn't belong at that level.  Clearly, 93+% of us did!
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #37 on: May 09, 2019, 01:36:31 PM »

I think part of the issue with US history is that a lot of teachers overestimate how much time they have and dawdle too much on the colonial era.

It’s not totally unique to that sort of thing, though: In college I took Julian Bond’s course on the Civil Rights Movement and he freely admitted that he spent too much time on the Montgomery Bus Boycott (in his inimitable fashion, he said, “The one thing that I did wrong, I focused on Montgomery for far too long,” in a sendup of the lyrics to “Eyes on the Prize”). 
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #38 on: May 09, 2019, 03:30:50 PM »

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!
To be fair, I think a lot of developed countries suffer from this issue. I've noticed that Britain seems like a testaholic, considering the amount of GSCE's that other forum members took (seriously, 16 exams almost on par with the AP tests?). China (and I believe Japan) have less tests, but they are difficult - it's rumored that even the elderly, who have studied for decades, still fail at exams like the civil service exams. Can't say about Canada, though I do know for a fact that you have to study French, which is a difficult language. Other European countries I'd imagine would also have some kind of rigorous standardized test in some form or another, that an alumni would have to take somewhere down the line.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #39 on: May 09, 2019, 03:44:45 PM »

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!

One criticism I often hear--and I believe there is some truth to it--is that formal K-12 education in the US is generally about preparing students to take direction from hierarchical superiors in occupational settings.

I don't know how you could structure school any other way.

I have a great relationship with pretty much every professor that I've met, but in the end, there's still some form of a test: written, oral, presentation, film, etc. There has to be some way for a superior to decide if you're worthy of both receiving credit for, and succeeding beyond, said course.

I do have one professor who, fortunately for me, is also the director of my department. He has admitted, straight up, that he does not believe in memorisation; remember the material for reference during the test, and you're good. Still though, there's a test, and he's ultimately a superior to me, and makes the call whether I pass or fail. If there's one thing Boeing's taught us, it's that self-certification may not always be a good thing!
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #40 on: May 09, 2019, 07:23:16 PM »

This sort of underscores my belief that I've expressed in previous threads that American education is broken by focusing too much on tests and not on whether anyone has actually learned the material—you got a good grade by focusing effort on learning the quirks of the staff rather than what they were trying to teach you!

One criticism I often hear--and I believe there is some truth to it--is that formal K-12 education in the US is generally about preparing students to take direction from hierarchical superiors in occupational settings.

I don't know how you could structure school any other way.

I have a great relationship with pretty much every professor that I've met, but in the end, there's still some form of a test: written, oral, presentation, film, etc. There has to be some way for a superior to decide if you're worthy of both receiving credit for, and succeeding beyond, said course.

I had one English teacher who did book reports in an unorthodox way. The day they were due, she would sequester each student in a storage closet and conduct a short interview about the book. As she allowed us to select nearly any book (within reason), most of the books we were reading she hadn't read herself. However, she conducted the interview much like a prosecutor would, allowing the student to state a summary of the book and interjecting with follow-up questions, when appropriate, to try to test the student's familiarity with the book. She was, on more than one occasion, able to catch a student in enough inconsistencies that she could determine that they had not actually read the book and were trying to BS it.

I feel like a similar approach, with a small panel of subject-matter experts, ideally provided by an authority independent of the school district (to reduce favoritism toward whoever's on the football team, or against a student that annoys the teachers), would be most likely to be able to actually ascertain whether a student knew the material or not as a final exam. And it would allow some humanity into the equation. A well-trained interviewer should be able to determine that while a student may allow some of the details of a historical event like dates and names of minor players to slip, they do have a knowledge of the key narrative of the event (what happened, causes leading up to it, effects going forward). Or they may forget minor scenes in a work of fiction but still grasp the overall plot and themes. That kind of insight is practically impossible to distill down into a numerical score, but it is what we're really after when we educate students.

But paying a guy at the state board of education $30,000/year to run Scantrons through the machine is cheaper and easier, and don't we all just want to go home and have a beer?
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #41 on: May 10, 2019, 12:56:42 PM »

I had one English teacher who did book reports in an unorthodox way.

In seminary, my dad had a professor who was known to throw the stack of papers down a stairwell and then grade them based on where they landed.  It became a known strategy for students to write a decent number of pages, then simply photocopy those several of those pages and attach them to the end a few times—in order to make their paper heavier and thus more likely to go far down the stairs, while still being difficult to detect if the prof chose to thumb through them briefly before "grading".
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #42 on: May 10, 2019, 02:29:33 PM »

In seminary, my dad had a professor who was known to throw the stack of papers down a stairwell and then grade them based on where they landed.  It became a known strategy for students to write a decent number of pages, then simply photocopy those several of those pages and attach them to the end a few times—in order to make their paper heavier and thus more likely to go far down the stairs, while still being difficult to detect if the prof chose to thumb through them briefly before "grading".

My mother remembered a professor she had (not sure whether as an undergraduate or a graduate student) who lectured by reading notes that were so old the paper was yellowed.

One side effect of the current focus on research that is somewhat beneficial to students looking to maintain a good GPA is that some professors see grading as time taken away from research and thus consider that you have an A unless you provide them with a compelling reason not to give you one.
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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #43 on: May 10, 2019, 06:00:40 PM »

During the course of that same doctoral program there was a 3-class progression covering statistical analysis.  To pass the series one had to average a 3.33 GPA or have to retake the lowest-graded section.  The instructor for the first section was a particular piece of work -- a combination of OCD with a disdain for those taking the class; none of our cohort came out with anything higher than a B+!  But the instructor for the remaining two courses, who had been a Census Bureau statistical hotshot for most of his life, took us aside individually and asked us what we needed as a grade for his two sections to get through the curriculum.  As for me, I simply said a B+ for one and an A- for the other would suffice (leaving a little room for unforeseen disaster); he jotted that down and said that would be fine -- but just don't tank the final (he and the first instructor didn't get along particularly well).  As it ended up, I got A- for both of his sections, so I got through OK.  Bought a stat program soon afterwards; never had to do the raw math for regression analysis again (but I still have the textbooks in case something crashes!).  It's always nice when instructors and students do not become classified as adversaries! 
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jon daly

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #44 on: May 10, 2019, 11:01:47 PM »

Personally, I think process of elimination is a lot better strategy than picking at random. Even if you know very little of the material, you can at least eliminate one, often two, and then your chances are 33% or 50%, respectively. That's a lot better than 25%, and the effect snowballs over the course of many questions.

I agree. I can do very well on most exams because I can do this very well. The worst exam I have ever taken is a professional one on Muni bonds. It's about 1 percent of my job and the material is bone dry. I've failed this twice.
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SectorZ

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #45 on: May 11, 2019, 07:19:40 AM »

I just took a final where one problem had in its given information that US 93 northbound in Boston has 45K±10K vehicles per hour. (It was a statistics problem, and it was not multiple choice.)

Nice to see my alma mater has no better grasp on road geography than it had 20 years ago.
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kphoger

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #46 on: May 13, 2019, 01:25:19 PM »


Personally, I think process of elimination is a lot better strategy than picking at random. Even if you know very little of the material, you can at least eliminate one, often two, and then your chances are 33% or 50%, respectively. That's a lot better than 25%, and the effect snowballs over the course of many questions.

I agree. I can do very well on most exams because I can do this very well.

When I took the ACT, that wasn't an option.  It was more a case of the proctor saying there was one minute remaining, then I marked 'A' for all the questions I hadn't gotten to yet.  (I only had to do that for one section, as I completed all the others on time.)
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kphoger

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #47 on: May 13, 2019, 01:28:05 PM »

When my dad took the ACT, he had just finished moving the day before and didn't feel like spending the energy on the test that was required.  So he didn't read the questions—only the answers, then picked which answer sounded good to him.  He placed into advanced physics and remedial English.  He had never before taken a single physics class, and he was enrolling with an English literature concentration.  (bad strategy)
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michravera

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #48 on: May 14, 2019, 09:57:35 AM »

Did anyone else just straight-up take college courses in high school? My 11th and 12th grades were at a community college, earning college credit. I would have graduated with an AA but I didn't get credit in all of my classes. Turns out, college requires a bit more discipline than getting on a school bus to go to high school.

Yep. After finishing the AP Calculus exam in my junior year. Besides, the state university was closer to my house than my high school.

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sparker

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Re: Exam strategies
« Reply #49 on: May 14, 2019, 07:36:41 PM »

Did anyone else just straight-up take college courses in high school? My 11th and 12th grades were at a community college, earning college credit. I would have graduated with an AA but I didn't get credit in all of my classes. Turns out, college requires a bit more discipline than getting on a school bus to go to high school.

Back in 1967, my school district allowed any senior who had completed the core curriculum and who had already been accepted to a 4-year college to take one or two classes their final (spring) semester at the local JC.  I did so, selecting an economics class (the first of many) and a class in musical theory -- the latter having been taught by the conductor of the local (Glendale, CA) symphony.  Fortunately, the classes were accepted by UC as lower-division credits.   Since it was only a 15-minute drive to the college, it was a hell of a lot better than sticking around my HS (which was being rebuilt at the time and was a full-on construction zone, complete with dust & noise).  All in all, a good experience.
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