Top five questions to ask your professor before your final exam

Don't hesitate to ask for study help with your final.

Don’t hesitate to ask for study help with your final.

With the season for final exams rapidly approaching, college students can engage their professor for help or advice. Don’t be afraid to meet with your professor before a final exam. Don’t be intimidated or feel like he or she will think you’re dumb for asking for help. Obtaining personalized attention from your teacher affords you a student advantage in your academics and can improve your college GPA. Here are five questions to ask your professor before a final:

1. What’s on the final?

Yes, it’s okay to outright ask. Many times the professor will outright tell you—and even offer some study strategies. You can request information about the final, such as how much of the material will be derived from lectures, readings, lab experiments, case studies, etc. You can also ask about the content coverage and question format of the exam (multiple choice, essay, etc.). This knowledge ahead of time helps you study the right stuff and also relieves stress if you can have a clear picture of what to expect.

Tips for Meeting with Your Professor” from Wayne State University in Detroit suggests: “Review with your professor the format for the final exam and material that will be covered. Possible questions to ask include: Will the final be cumulative or only on material covered since the last exam?”

2. May I come to you for extra help?

Some teachers make themselves available the night before an exam to take calls or emails from students who need extra help absorbing the material or to answer last-minute questions. Even better, try to have the professor answer your questions a week or several days before the final. Before you see or email the teacher, prepare your questions in advance. “If you have outstanding questions, go see your professor or tutor at least three days before the exam. If you’ve given yourself a mock test in advance, you’ll be able to go to office hours with an agenda,” suggests St. Lawrence College in “How Should I Prepare for Tests and Final Exams?

3. Should I attend a review class?

Your professor will likely encourage you to attend a review class, especially if you were having difficulty during the semester, get exceptionally stressed during finals week, have trouble focusing or aren’t sure what to study. Review classes also offer extra help with content that has been consistently difficult for many in the class to grasp. Some schools, departments and professors offer online study guides and sample questions in study sheets for the final exam. Go to the review class prepared with questions you have.

4. May I see old exams?

A good professor will create a new exam with different questions each year (unless you’re lucky enough to get a teacher who recycles old exams). While this year’s exam questions will be different, you can review past exams to get a sense of the types of questions and material the professor considers important enough to put on a test. This way you’ll know that you’re studying the right material.

Handouts—Exam Preparation” from the University of Guelph in Ontario offers some tips: “Try to obtain old exams used for the course in previous years. These may be available from course reserves in the Library, the professor, the department, or other students who have taken the course. Practise answering the questions—be sure to limit response time to the amount of time you will have in the exam. Afterwards, check your answers and make sure you understand the correct responses.”

5. How will the final be graded?

Final exams can be a small or large part of your final grade. It helps to know going in how the test will be graded and what percentage of the final grade is the final exam. Final grades can be computed on a curve or be a straight percentage of your grade.

One of the most frustrating things after taking a final exam or submitting a final paper is not knowing your grade on it or getting any feedback. You get your final grade for the course and that’s it. Some colleges are now allowing students to email professors a few weeks after the final class to receive a copy of their graded final exam or final paper.

What are your concerns about the final that you’d like to ask your professor? Share with us in the comments.

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