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Preparing For That Final: A Pass-It-Yourself Guide (OPERATOR)

Preparing For The Finals: A Pass-It-Yourself Guide

                 Syed Shibli

Contrary to popular belief, most final examinations
are actually very difficult. Face it, finals are like
sex: the more you think about it, the more nervous you
are about performing better than you did last time. 
Sure, given enough time to prepare and study for a subject,
a student can succeed, but to what purpose? Idiot. To
get good grades, of course. Therefore, to help you
achieve just that, I have drawn on my long experience
as a professional student to come up with this
handy pass-it-yourself guide on preparing for that
important final. Cramming for that Gynecology class?
On the brink of flunking that Proctology course?
Just read on: there's not a nugget of useful information
that can be derived from a careful reading of these
study tips.

(1) Getting Rid Of Your Roommate

With careful planning and execution, a roommate can be
your ticket to academic success. Roomates can be divided
into two categories: the loud, boisterous ones who go about
defacing public property, and the silent, astute types
who pick their noses when you're not looking. Regardless
his or her personality, your roommate can always be
relied upon to give you that extra peace and privacy while
you study for that important Calculus exam. Getting rid
of your roommate is easier than you think. If your roommate
has a foot fetish, tell him about that free 200-page shoe
catalog they're giving away at JCPenny's. If your roommate
is a health freak, comment on how tight her jeans look
on her lately. And if your roommate is a loud, bad-tempered,
350-pound nose tackle, don't say anything.

(2) An Apple A Day Keeps The F's Away

Good nutrition is frequently a governing factor in a student's
academic achievement. After all, if food doesn't make the man, 
what does? Stupid. The point is, a well-balanced diet can go a 
long way in transforming an otherwise hormonally-imbalanced
college student into a healthy, vivacious `A' student. Good
nutrition means clean, freshly prepared meat and vegetables, 
so this will exclude all cafeteria food and food served in
recycled cardboard boxes and styrofoam containers. For that
important late night study binge, a handy list of food items
to have would include a glass of water, one Chiquita banana to
replenish the whole of last year's lost nutrients, and an 
Indiana baloney sandwich. 

(3) Stress Management: Fact or Fiction?

Over the last few years, some so-called ``stress management''
techniques have come into vogue on college campuses. While
it is not the purpose of this guide to expound on the virtues
and shortcomings of such techniques, suffice it to say that when
under stress, cuss. If your neighbour's stereo system is stretching
the limits of your ear drums, by all means, cuss. If you think your
professor's assigning you one too many chapters to cover, cuss.
Cussing is an art, so good cussing is a good art: done correctly,
it can make a person feel a million and a half times better. Done
poorly, it can fly back in your face and leave you feeling like
someone pulled your nails out with a pair of pliers.

(4) That Interim Period Before A Final: Things To Do

So now you are all done with studying. You have read all the
necessary chapters and done most, if not all, of the exercises.
What do you do in that interim period right after you finished
studying and just before the final? Do you sleep? No! Do you
do your laundry? No! Do you bath your pet hamster? No! Check 
first to make sure that all of these important chores have been
done before putting your life in the hands of the examiner:

(a) Inspect cheat sheet and see if it has been properly
    photo-reduced so as to render intelligible all important
    formulae, theorems, lemmas, and corollaries.

(b) Arrange to meet with professor two hours before exam, and
    utilize brown-nose skills to extract every last bit of 
    information about the test. This might not always work.

(c) Check to make sure that all pencils are sharpened. Plan on
    sitting as far away as possible from annoying student (there's
    one in every class) who likes to borrow stuff from other 

(d) Also plan on sitting as far away as possible from students who 
    make whistling noises with their noses because of overabundance
    of nasal hair. This can get very annoying.

(e) Draw mental plans of building where exam is to be held. Note
    exits and entrances, location of restrooms, water coolers,
    stairwells, sharp objects, and the like. This might come in handy 
    if you might have to beat a hasty retreat for being caught cheating.

(5) The Moment Of Truth: Tips On Answering Exam Questions

Three kinds of exams dominate today's college campuses: the
take-home exam, the multiple choice exam, and the essay exam.
None of these is actually preferable over the other; regardless
the type of the exam, a professor will always find ways to 
rip you to shreds. Nontheless, a brief discussion of each
is in order:

(a) The Take-Home Exam:

This kind of exam, long the favorite of graduate students
with masochistic tendencies, is rapidly gaining popularity
due to its relative ease of implementation. It's name,
however, is misleading. Frequently, a take-home exam involves 
more leg-work than a visit to the zoo. A lot of time
is wasted digging for information in books that offer little
or no chance for you to find a solution to the question. A 
better alternative would be to drop in the professor's office
from time to time to ask for the book that you need. Here's
a sample session that you might want to emulate on your own:

You : I don't want to bother you but I was doing Question Two
      and realized that I left the reference I needed for that
      question back in my apartment. Could I borrow yours

Prof: Sure. Did you say Question Two? Then you'll probably need 
      this book. I think I've marked the page numbers.
      (hands you his reference)

You:  Thanks.

Prof: You're welcome. Come see me if you need anything else.

Now that wasn't too hard was it? One item to beware, though: Never
try this stunt more than three times. If your professor is smart enough
he might begin to suspect that you're using him.

(b) The Multiple-Choice Exam:

Myth: Multiple-choice exams are easy.
Fact: They are.

Countless students have wailed about the difficulty of multiple 
choice exams when the truth is that given four choices in a 
question, a student is more likely to pick the right answer than
Madonna is likely to turn into a nun. The crux of the matter
is this: be careful when choosing the right solution. A student
should consider all possible choices and eliminate the bad ones
before marking his or her choice. For example, given the following
hypothetical question, which would you choose?

Which of the following is correct?

(a) Keats had diarrhea after he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci
(b) Keats complained that he had diarrhea when he wrote 
    La Belle Dame Sans Merci
(c) Keats had diarrhea before he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci
(d) Keats wrote Ode To A Grecian Urn

An English major would choose (d), but looking at the question
again carefully, one can conclude without a doubt that the answer is
(a) Keats had diarrhea after he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Using
proof by induction, (b) is clearly not the answer because Keats
couldn't have written his masterpiece if he had diarrhea before that.
(c) is eliminated following the same train of thought. (d) is incorrect
because we know for a fact that (a) is already correct, so there
cannot be two correct answers in the same question.

(c) The Essay Question

Perhaps no other exam is more dreaded than the essay exam. Essay
exams offer a lot of flexibility, but this flexibility comes 
associated with it a tangled mess of details and sub-details
that the student needs to memorize in order to come up with a
choice essay. To give an example, the following two paragraphs
are excerpts from actual essays written by a poor student and
a good student. The topic is Fitzgerald's book, "The
Great Gatsby."

Poor student:
Gatsby saw the green light and knew right off he had to
have Daisy no matter what. It was almost as if the light
meant "Go!" in his tender heart. To get Daisy he arranged
to have parties at his house, hoping that Daisy might turn up
some day to meet him. Let me quote something:

    "There was music from my neighbour's house all through
     the summer nights. The men and girls came and went like
     moths among the champagne and the whisperings and the stars. 
     In his blue gardens ..."

Fitzgerald also wrote "blue gardens" here but I think he must 
have meant green instead of blue. Could it be a literary faux pas? 
Only Fitzgerald knows. 

Good student:
Perhaps it was the green light that pulled him towards Daisy. 
Perhaps it was the stars, or what part of it was his, that gave him
such an intense longing for her that made such an irrefutable
claim on his desires. Or perhaps it was Tom Buchanan, and
all of his ilk, who drove him to try once again to capture 
the woman of his younger years. Whatever it is, we can only 
conclude that Gatsby suffered an intense nostalgia to relive
the time he spent with Daisy.

The first paragraph is neanderthal, simplistic, and replete 
with bastardizations. The second paragraph is elegantly written,
trenchant, and forceful. You be the judge.

(6) What To When The Going Gets Tough: A Final Word

In conclusion, let me just say this: don't expect to get it right
the first time. Although these tips have been time-tested
and proven to be reliable, their actual implementation might
prove to be more difficult than it might seem to be. If this is the
case, do not despair. Learning to study is a lot like learning to use
a power tool: at times you never know which lever to press and
which switch to turn. The key is to experiment: do whatever
you feel comfortable with. In time, preparing for the finals
will almost be second nature to you. I think it was 
Hemmorhoidus who once said, in a drunken stupor: "Be ye man or wuman,
be ye learner or teacher, be ye beggar or rich, be ye
learners all!" I don't know what he meant, either. Good luck.

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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