An ‘A’ grader’s secret to success

Published: August 30, 2012

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. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

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

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 necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Tina

    I beg to differ on the point, ‘belonging to the same native area and speaking the same language helps a lot in trivialising the communication barrier’. This is like telling the professor, we have better understanding coz we belong to the same ethnic group. Hence, you should prioritize me over others on this basis. Whether you agree or not, the same city and same ethnicity always jumps in during evaluations, and teachers become biased towards students with the same cultural backgrounds as theirs. WE SHOULD KEEP OUR ETHNICITY OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY- PROFESSIONALISM.

    It has become a common trend of flattering the professors : you look so good today. For me, this is unethical. Praise their publications and lectures instead. Our education system is malfunctioning also due to this ignored reason. Those who stick too much and flatter the Professor, are A graders mostly. And those who come to class for critical reasoning by asking challenging questions, are more vulnerable to bad grades. Recommend

  • Muhammad Tahir

    Incredible…….A very helpful piece of writing…!!!!!Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Know what really gets you an A? Interest.

    Some students take genuine interest in their studies, and are able to study for longer periods of time. Others endure twice as much mental anguish, to study for just half as long. It’s because they’re simply not interested in these subjects, and it’s not their fault!

    Society expects all kids to take interest in the same, limited number of school courses offered to them. They misconstrue one’s lack of interest in mathematics as “laziness” or “stupidity”.

    Teachers have a habit of nonsensically telling their pupils to “develop interest” in their studies. As if interest is what somebody generates at will. You can force a person to perform a certain task, but you cannot force him to enjoy it! And taking joy in your work is the true key to achieving more in that particular subject.Recommend

  • bball

    Wow! what a childish writeup! Do adults or soon to be adults actually read this type of pieces? Mr. Saif, write back hear in ten years with up-to-date progress.Recommend

  • Amit

    @ faraz talat. Your comment is better than this piece. By the way when is your blog coming, let me knowRecommend

  • Aamna

    Haha that ”Jugaarh” in the Hard work section might come in handy to me in college.. The Presentation matters part is so rightly justified..but I dont like that the writer here, kind of, encourages us to flattering the professor.
    @Tina ” And those who come to class for critical reasoning by asking challenging questions, are more vulnerable to bad grades.” girl you are so right!!!! I was pwned by a nerdy mate because I ousted the teachers out from their usual comfort zone of urging us to adopt rote-learning while she memorized whatever she found in the book or teacher’s lecture!Recommend

  • http://Gilgit Zaman Punyali

    Well, it will help out the ‘freshmen’ for sure, but what’s the point of publishing it here? Better make 50 copies and distribute among your class fellows.Recommend

  • Rahim Virani

    Hardwork always payoff … dosent matter if you fail in school college or uni … if u r smart enough to make money … u’ll be fine … at the end of the day … you need moeny to survive ur A grade wont pay your bills … your Uni GPA only get you a interview call not a Job so be smart and work Hard !!!Recommend

  • Confused

    The secret is that there is no secret. You have to study. You HAVE to. Maybe you can coast through high school but once you get to college there is no excuse.Recommend

  • Waqas


  • not

    i disagree. you cannot blame A graders from deliberately hiding stuff. many of them genuinly want to help. its the same notes they took for themselves. im sure no one has the time in a lecture to take dual notes. its just that one internalizes the material better by writing short notes on their own even if they never look at those notes ever again themselves. thats what researches have proven. so get your insights correct. people reading those notes havent gone thru the same process of listening and taking notes.Recommend

  • Sana

    I am so so disappointed after reading this article. I am an Academician in a world class university (top 100) and I totally disagree with each and every tip!
    While a student needs to have good social skills i.e. you can say hi to your lecturer to show respect, but it does not mean you get better grades by doing any extra flattering. As for me, if a student shows me ethnic similarity, I totally dislike it and it may work negative for me sometimes.
    You develop your professionalism in university and you must believe in yourself rather than using these cheap tactics to get marks. In my university I was not a top 10 graduate so the chairman of my department refused to give me a lecturing job, and you know what, I got a 3 times better offer at another univeristy. So in the end “believe in yourself” is the moral.
    There is no shortcut to success. You must work hard and that means 10 hours of studies per day (you may include your lecture hours in them).
    @Author, Please don’t misguide our generation who are already lost! Argh i am so upset.Recommend

  • Pity Paki Liberals

    What a load of bullocks! This is a total mockery of what education is. No wonder our feet are figgin’ glued to the earth while the rest of the world is on the moon!!! And no wonder LUMS and IBA are light years ahead of Bahria University IslamabadRecommend

  • CommonSense

    Coming from a 3.4 GPA student, bhai aap apna 4.0 GPA apnay paas rakho. I’d rather spend my free time learning a musical instrument (which I did), or having another hobby that develops my overall personality instead of chasing after those few extra marks. Good luck with getting a job since most companies avoid hiring 4.0 GPA bookworms anyway.Recommend

  • Awais Saeed

    Aoa. Found your guidelines informative and Think it wd work, as I recently got an admission in M.Phil at Nust, Isd.Recommend

  • maha

    Great article!
    However the part about saying the hello to the professor because you have to be careful as it takes a minute for the rumour of a close relationship between a professor and you.Recommend

  • Maria.Ghumman

    I don’t reckon acquiring the grades by flattering,sweet-talk or buttering up.One shouldn’t be affronting towards the tutors aswell but fawning isn’t for sophisticated people,moreover i’ve never seen A graders flattering or doing “lota baazi”. I won’t ever like to attain grades by apple polishing.Recommend

  • Fizza

    I was expecting to read about a “secret” but there is a list of secrets in here and what more they aren’t secret from any angle. The author must be a web content writer; such misleading headings are common on web. Recommend