Grades needed to gain entrance into sought-after university programs are on an upward trajectory. How do some students get ahead of the competition? Work ethic and aptitude are highly important, but are not the only qualities necessary to be at the top of a class. Students that do exceptionally well don’t only rely on their innate ability when it comes to getting high marks. They are often very good advocates for themselves. They are good at proving to the teacher that they deserve more marks for a particular answer. They make sure to go over every question that they got wrong on a test or assignment. They find their mistakes and make corrections, so that they don’t end up making the same mistakes twice.
They also often make an effort to get tests for a given course from students that have already taken the course and had the same teacher. Doing this gives them a huge advantage over other students. Since teachers generally don’t want to remake tests every semester, they often just make modifications to questions and, sometimes, even just reuse certain questions. Moreover, overachieving students often form study groups and seek help from other students. They are great at reaching out and collaborating with others. They compare their solutions to questions with their classmates to see if there is a better way of solving a particular problem.
I’ve noticed that more and more of my students are now those that have marks in the high 80s or even in the 90s, while in the past, I had a lot more students that were doing very poorly in a given course. I believe that this is because university entrance averages are on an upward trajectory. It is now fairly common for students at the top of a class to have a tutor. It is hard to be one of the best in a subject without getting a lot of one-on-one attention from a teacher or tutor. There is usually a lot to learn and a tutor is good at helping the student focus on the most important concepts (those that are likeliest to be on a test). Moreover, a tutor provides feedback to the student on how prepared the tutor thinks the student is for a given test or exam.
Furthermore, students that get ahead generally have a good relationship with their teachers. They ask lots of questions and go for extra help even though they are already doing well. They are good at picking their teachers’ brains, and being able to predict what questions are likely to be on a test.
Over the years, I’ve tutored many students that got marks in the mid to high 90s. All of these students spent time learning the material of a course before taking the course. It wasn’t just that they were fast learners that contributed to the marks they were able to get, but that they spent more time with the material of a course since they were exposed to it twice. This also explains why some students that come from other countries to study in Canada find the math that is taught here to be much easier because they are seeing concepts for the second or third time. Instead of having to struggle to understand the material for the first time, they just have to review it.