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Office of the Provost Teaching at WSU

The A Game’s


You can find more about these tips in The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades, by Ken Sufka. It is available on reserve at WSU libraries or you may request a copy of your own here. Sufka presented more strategies to improve learning and academic success in a 2014 presentation at WSU.

Here is The A Game faculty tool kit, and the The A Game faculty tool kit guide to incorporating it into your course. Thank you for your dedication to the success of our students!

Sufka’s nine steps to better grades are:

1. Go to class, always

It’s tempting for students to skip a class now and then—especially on those cold mornings. But professors share a lot of important information during each class that can’t be found anywhere else but in class. This tip is number one for a reason! Here are some tips students can use to get more sleep and get to class.

2. Never sit in the cheap seats

Students should avoid distractions and get the most out of limited time in class. By focusing on the lecture and the material being presented they will have an easier time recalling it later. Sitting in the front is a great way to proactively engage in the class.

3. Come to class prepared

Get a good night’s rest before morning classes. Take a short nap before afternoon classes, if possible. Students should prepare for the lecture by reading ahead. By becoming familiar with key terms and summary statements from the textbook, they will be able to follow the lecture, and take notes in more detail.

4. When lost, ask questions

Office hours are for students. Encourage students to use them, meet instructors, make connections and ask questions when they’re lost. Professors and teaching assistants are valuable resources and are willing to help. Encourage students not to be “stealth students” as Sufka calls those that are anonymous in class, don’t ask questions and don’t utilize faculty’s office hours.

5. Get spaced out

Encourage students to avoid pulling an all-nighter before finals. The amount of time students spend studying is important, but they should focus on quality study time rather than long blocks of study time. Spread out study sessions for maximum retention. For tests, students should study two hours a day for four days rather than eight hours the night before. It’s much more efficient. If they start studying material early on in the semester and build their knowledge base slowly instead of procrastinating, they will see better results at test time.

6. Develop learning objectives

Students should go into each study session with a game plan. Instead of re-reading lecture notes or focusing on highlighted sections of the textbook, they should use learning objectives, concept maps, notation reduction, or reflective (active) learning. This results in learning the material on a deeper level, and retaining information at a much higher rate. Students can read more about these techniques in The A Game, or find a tutor on campus.

7. Learn material at all levels

Memorizing key terms and facts is important, but understanding the broader concepts and the connections between them is often much more important. After students are familiar with the terminology and concepts, they can take the next step and understand the application. The final step is understanding the material on a conceptual level. By understanding this hierarchy, they can go beyond simply memorizing facts and grades will improve.

8. Use learning checks

Students should make the most of their study time by focusing on areas they do not already know well. By using learning checks, they can discover their strong points, and find the areas they need to work on. There are several effective techniques for learning checks laid out in The A Game, including “White Board Learning Checks,” “Self-Testing with Friends” and “Role Playing.”

9. Be exam savvy

While there is no substitute for great preparation, there are some test-taking tips that can help improve grades. Students should make sure to read each question carefully, and not feel pressure to answer every question in the order it’s presented. They should make sure to fill out Scantron forms correctly, and not to overlook any questions – check the back page. The A Game has many more tips for taking tests that will help students maximize test results.

Find even more tips for academic success to share with students here.

We want to hear from faculty:

What are your best tips for success at the college level?

How can students best prepare for your class?

Have you seen The A Game make a difference for your students?


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