Communication Skills

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Tenses–Some Basic Rules

Tenses RULESPresent Tense (SIMPLE):

  • With singular- verb + (s)
  • With Plural- Verb only

I /They/ we/you work, He /she/ it (object, plan etc) works (1st form of verb)
am working, we/they/you are working, and he/she/it is working or it is being done
I /they/we/you do, He/she /it does.
I /we/they/you don’t, He/she/It doesn’t (NEGATION)
Do I/they/we/you? ……… Does he/she/it? (QUESTION)
I/we/ they/you- have/haven’t 
for e.g-I have done (3rd form of verb)
He/she/it- has/hasn’t 
for e.g-he has done (3rd form of verb)
I/we/ they/you- have / haven’t been …verb + ing
He/she/it– has/ hasn’t been…verb + ing
It has been done (3rd form of verb)
‘Have had’ and ‘has had’ are used when something/work is carried on from past in to the present.

(simple present)Isà Was (simple past)
I /he/she/ità was/ wasn’t 
I saw, ate, drank etc (2nd form of verb)
(simple present)Areà were (simple past)
We/you/theyà were/ weren’t 
We saw, ate, drank etc (2nd form of verb)
For question in simple past- Did you…..+ 1st form of verb?
e.g- Did Mary dance in a musical?
Past continuous – 
I /he/she/it– was/ wasn’t …verb+ ing
We/you/they– were/ weren’t… verb + ing
Past Perfect-when something/work started and ended in past tense only
I/we/you/they/he/she/it– had + 3rd form of verb
e.g I had done my homework yesterday. Sometimes we use “had had” when we are too sure about the happening.
Past Perfect Continuous- when something / work got started and went on in past tense but not ended.
I/we/you/they/he/she/it- Had been… verb+ ing.
For question- had you completed/ been completing your work……..?

Please study the will/shall & going to usage to know when and how we use these words.
I/we/you/they/he/she/it- will + 1st form of verb
They will do……I/we shall do (1st form of verb)
‘It’ will be done (3rd form of verb with IT)
For future continuous –
I/we/you/they/he/she/it- will be & verb+ ing
Future perfect- 
Note – we rarely use future perfect tense only when we are confident about future.
I/we- shall have + 3rd form of verb
You/they/he/she/it- Will have + 3rd form of verb
Future perfect continuous: will/ shall have been & verb + ing.


Concord/Subject Verb Agreement

Basic Rule

The basic rule states that a singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.

NOTE: The trick is in knowing whether the subject is singular or plural. The next trick is recognizing a singular or plural verb.

Hint: Verbs do not form their plurals by adding an s as nouns do. In order to determine which verb is singular and which one is plural, think of which verb you would use with he or she and which verb you would use with they.

talks, talk

Which one is the singular form?
Which word would you use with he?
We say, “He talks.” Therefore, talks is singular.
We say, “They talk.” Therefore, talk is plural.

Rule 1

Two singular subjects connected by or or nor require a singular verb.

My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.

Rule 2

Two singular subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor require a singular verb as in Rule 1.

Neither Juan nor Carmen is available.
Either Kiana or Casey is helping today with stage decorations.

Rule 3

When I is one of the two subjects connected by either/or or neither/nor, put it second and follow it with the singular verb am.

Neither she nor I am going to the festival.

Rule 4

When a singular subject is connected by or or nor to a plural subject, put the plural subject last and use a plural verb.

The serving bowl or the plates go on that shelf.

Rule 5

When a singular and plural subject are connected by either/or or neither/nor, put the plural subject last and use a plural verb.

Neither Jenny nor the others are available.

Rule 6

As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.

A car and a bike are my means of transportation.

Rule 7

Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not. Ignore these expressions when determining whether to use a singular or plural verb.

The politician, along with the newsmen, is expected shortly.
Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.

Rule 8

The pronouns each, everyone, every one, everybody, anyone, anybody, someone, and somebody are singular and require singular verbs. Do not be misled by what follows of.

Each of the girls sings well.
Every one of the cakes is gone.

NOTE: Everyone is one word when it means everybody. Every one is two words when the meaning is each one.

Rule 9

With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth —look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.

Fifty percent of the pie has disappeared.
Pie is the object of the preposition of.
Fifty percent of the pies have disappeared.
Pies is the object of the preposition.
One-third of the city is unemployed.
One-third of the people are unemployed.

NOTE: Hyphenate all spelled-out fractions.

All of the pie is gone.
All of the pies are gone.
Some of the pie is missing.
Some of the pies are missing.
None of the garbage was picked up.
None of the sentences were punctuated correctly.
Of all her books, none have sold as well as the first one.

NOTE: Apparently, the SAT testing service considers none as a singular word only. However, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, “Clearly none has been both singular and plural since Old English and still is. The notion that it is singular only is a myth of unknown origin that appears to have arisen in the 19th century. If in context it seems like a singular to you, use a singular verb; if it seems like a plural, use a plural verb. Both are acceptable beyond serious criticism” (p. 664).

Rule 10

The expression the number is followed by a singular verb while the expression a number is followed by a plural verb.

The number of people we need to hire is thirteen.
A number of people have written in about this subject.

Rule 11

When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs.

of them is available to speak right now.

Either of us is capable of doing the job.

Rule 12

The words here and there have generally been labeled as adverbs even though they indicate place. In sentences beginning with here or there, the subject follows the verb.

There are four hurdles to jump.
There is a high hurdle to jump.

Rule 13

Use a singular verb with sums of money or periods of time.

Ten dollars is a high price to pay.
Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.

Rule 14

Sometimes the pronoun who, that, or which is the subject of a verb in the middle of the sentence. The pronouns who, that, and which become singular or plural according to the noun directly in front of them. So, if that noun is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.

Salma is the scientist who writes/write the reports.
The word in front of who is scientist, which is singular. Therefore, use the singular verb writes.
He is one of the men who does/do the work.
The word in front of who is men, which is plural. Therefore, use the plural verb do.

Rule 15

Collective nouns such as team and staff may be either singular or plural depending on their use in the sentence.

The staff is in a meeting.
Staff is acting as a unit here.
The staff are in disagreement about the findings.
The staff are acting as separate individuals in this example.
The sentence would read even better as:
The staff members are in disagreement about the findings.

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Some Facts About Reading

Loud Reading


ñ     Positive Aspects of Loud Reading:

  1. Increases concentration and decreases the chances of distraction:

While loud reading multiple senses are at work. Therefore our mind has to work more. Hence there is less chance of getting distracted. Concentration increases if we do not get distracted.

  1. Leads to better comprehension:

Increase in concentration leads to better comprehension.

  1. Increases the chances of extensive reading:

While reading aloud we constantly listen to what we read. Hence there is less chance of missing anything.  

  1. Enhances pronunciation:

Since we can listen to what we read while reading aloud, there is a possibility of being aware of our wrong pronunciation. If we are aware of our wrong pronunciation we can rectify it.


ñ     Negative Aspects of Loud Reading:

  1. Fatigue:

Reading aloud for a long time can cause fatigue. This may eventually lead to lack of interest and concentration.

  1. Circumstantial problem:

Loud reading cannot be done at all places. At times it may cause disturbance to others.

Bad Reading Habits

  1. Reading while doing something else such as eating, talking, chatting through a social networking site (Causes distraction, Lessens comprehension and slows down the pace)
  2. Reading in incorrect postures (Harms eyesight, causes shoulder pain)
  3. Moving lips while reading (Slows down the pace)
  4. Reading with same speed (Lessens comprehension)
  5. Rereading a word or sentence out of habit (Slows down the pace)
  6. Reading in low light (Harms eyesight)

Tips for Effective Reading

(See Technical Communication 2nd Edition by M. Raman and S. Sharma; Chapter: 12)

  1. Learning and applying certain reading skills such as Note-making, Understanding Discourse Coherence and Sequencing of Sentences.
  2. Applying certain techniques such as SQ3R Technique, Skimming and Scanning, Summarising
  3. Being aware of non-verbal signs, structure of the text, structure of the paragraph, punctuation
  4. Inferring author’s viewpoint
  5. Anticipating meanings of unfamiliar words
  6. Asking typical reading comprehension questions
  7. Predicting the content
  8. Understanding the gist  

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Example of the format of a report

1.Front page

In addition to the report content, the formal report is accompanied by a number of other components.

a) Transmittal Letter

Generally, the first component of a formal report is the transmittal letter. Similarly to a semi-formal report, the transmittal letter “transmits” the report to the intended reader. The letter will often contain the summary or at least the highlights of the report, as well as any details about completing and sending the report that are relevant to the receiver. The transmittal letter is generally attached to the report with a paper clip. Occasionally you will see the transmittal letter incorporated in the binding of the report before the Table of Contents. The transmittal letter may also contain the following information:

why the report was written



who commissioned the report and when


b) Cover

The formal report generally has a cover. The quality of the cover can have a significant impact on the impression the report makes. Reports that have covers of good quality stock, that are glossy, have some sort of visually attractive design and are glued to the pages of the report – rather than stapled, Cirlox bound or placed in a binder – make the best impression. The cover usually has the title of the report and name(s) of the person(s) who completed the report. Often the date the report was completed is placed on the cover as well.

c) Title Page

The title page generally has four main pieces of information:

the title of the report
the name of the person or organization receiving the report
the person(s) or organization who authored the report
the date the report was submitted
The title of the report takes precedence on the title page, with the other information neatly arranged on the page.

d) Table of Contents

The Table of Contents is an accurate and comprehensive table of the information located in the report with a corresponding page reference to easily locate each section. The contents are generally arranged to the left of the page, with subsections indented and identified by section numbers. Each item in the contents should have a corresponding page number that indicates where the section begins only.

e) List of Illustrations

If there are visuals, a listing, with page numbers, can be made at the bottom of the Table of Contents, or immediately following it.

f) Summary

The Summary or Executive Summary is separated from the main body of the report and placed as far forward in the report as possible on its own page. Generally it is located after the Table of Contents, but it could appear beforehand in some reports.

g) Glossary

If there is quite a lot of terminology that the intended reader would not be expected to know, then the report writer would compile a glossary of these terms with definitions at the start of the report.

h) Page Numbering

The first section of the report is not usually numbered as part of the report, but given introductory page numbers in the form of lowercase Roman numerals.

2.a. Body

The body of the report contains the Background, Details and Methodology used . With formal reports, there are generally a number of visuals and a variety of headings and subheadings contained in the report. The page numbers for the report usually start with the Background section.

This should sum up the main points of your report. Note that it is not the place to introduce new material. However, you can express opinions, provided that you have the evidence to support them. The conclusion you come to should substantiate the points made in the main text. You may wish at this point to make recommendations which arise naturally from your conclusion.
c. Recommendations
Recommendations should be suggestions for improvements or future actions, based on the conclusions you have drawn earlier. Not all reports require recommendations, but if they are to be included, you might wish to highlight them by putting them in a separate section.

3. Back Section

a) Endnotes

If footnotes or references were used in the text, a list of corresponding references is contained at the back of the report.

b) References

The references are a list of books and other sources of information that were used to compile the report.

c) Appendices

The appendices include all supplementary material related to the report. Generally, it includes material that provides additional information that would be excessive within the body of the report. The appendices should be well labelled (Appendix A, Appendix B, etc), appropriately titled and explained, referred to in the text of the report, and appear in the same order as they do within the body of the report. Many appendices are proceeded with a page that has its label and title. Appendices can include the following information:

test results
approval letters
intermediate or status reports
large photos or maps

d) Index

Long and elaborate reports can have indexes based on key words and subjects at the back of the report so that specific information can be located quickly.



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How to Write a Good Report

This short document describes how to write a good report. This is based on common mistakes I have observed over a period of time. While most of the following apply in general, they have been written with BTech/MTech/PhD students in mind.

The comments below apply for course projects, other semester projects, technical reports, theses (BTech/MTech/PhD). That is, technical writing in general. While a google search on the topic may churn out many hits, the following is tailored for IIT (Kanpur) students in particular.

I will first mention some general guidelines, then the structure of the report. Towards the end, I will also describe how to refine your writing, and how to give feedback on others’ writing. Based on these, I will recommend a possible strategy for producing high-quality reports which have high potential for being published.

General Guidelines

These are some general things you should know before you start writing. I will try to answer the questions of the purpose of report writing, and the overall approach as well.

Purpose of a report: writing to be read

A key thing to keep in mind right through your report writing process is that a report is written to be read, by someone else. This is the central goal of report-writing. A report which is written for the sake of being written has very little value.

Before you start writing your report, you need to have in mind the intended audience. In the narrowest of possibilities, your report is meant for reading by yourselves, and by your advisor/instructor, and perhaps by your evaluation committee. This has value, but only short-term. The next broader possibility is that your report is readable by your peers or your juniors down the line. This has greater value since someone else can continue on your work and improve it, or learn from your work. In the best case possibility, your report is of publishable quality. That is, readable and useful for the technical community in general.

Overall approach: top-down

Take a top-down approach to writing the report (also applies to problem solving in general). This can proceed in roughly three stages of continual refinement of details.

  1. First write the section-level outline,
  2. Then the subsection-level outline, and
  3. Then a paragraph-level outline. The paragraph-level outline would more-or-less be like a presentation with bulleted points. It incorporates the flow of ideas.

Once you have the paragraph-level flow of ideas, you can easily convert that into a full report, by writing out the flow of ideas in full sentences.

While doing the paragraph-level outline, think also about (a) figures, (b) tables, and (c) graphs you will include as part of the report at various stages. You will find that many things can be better explained by using simple figures at appropriate places.

Another thing to nail-down while doing the paragraph-level outline is the terminology you will be using. For instance, names of various protocols/algorithms/steps in your solution. Or names/symbols for mathematical notation.

The overall approach also includes multiple stages of refinement, and taking feedback from others (peers/advisor/instructor). I will talk about these in more detail after talking about the overall report structure.

Structure of a report

The following should roughly be the structure of a report. Note that these are just guidelines, not rules. You have to use your intelligence in working out the details of your specific writing.

  • Title and abstract: These are the most-read parts of a report. This is how you attract attention to your writing. The title should reflect what you have done and should bring out any eye-catching factor of your work, for good impact.

    The abstract should be short, generally within about 2 paragraphs (250 words or so total). The abstract should contain the essence of the report, based on which the reader decides whether to go ahead with reading the report or not. It can contain the following in varying amounts of detail as is appropriate: main motivation, main design point, essential difference from previous work, methodology, and some eye-catching results if any.

  • Introduction: Most reports start with an introduction section. This section should answer the following questions (not necessarily in that order, but what is given below is a logical order). After title/abstract introduction and conclusions are the two mainly read parts of a report.

    • What is the setting of the problem? This is, in other words, the background. In some cases, this may be implicit, and in some cases, merged with the motivation below.
    • What exactly is the problem you are trying to solve? This is the problem statement.
    • Why is the problem important to solve? This is the motivation. In some cases, it may be implicit in the background, or the problem statement itself.
    • Is the problem still unsolved? The constitutes the statement of past/related work crisply.
    • Why is the problem difficult to solve? This is the statement of challenges. In some cases, it may be implicit in the problem statement. In others, you may have to say explicitly as to why the problem is worthy of a BTech/MTech/PhD, or a semester project, as the case may be.
    • How have you solved the problem? Here you state the essence of your approach. This is of course expanded upon later, but it must be stated explicitly here.
    • What are the conditions under which your solution is applicable? This is a statement of assumptions.
    • What are the main results? You have to present the main summary of the results here.
    • What is the summary of your contributions? This in some cases may be implicit in the rest of the introduction. Sometimes it helps to state contributions explicitly.
    • How is the rest of the report organized? Here you include a paragraph on the flow of ideas in the rest of the report. For any report beyond 4-5 pages, this is a must.

    The introduction is nothing but a shorter version of the rest of the report, and in many cases the rest of the report can also have the same flow. Think of the rest of the report as an expansion of some of the points in the introduction. Which of the above bullets are expanded into separate sections (perhaps even multiple sections) depends very much on the problem.

  • Background: This is expanded upon into a separate section if there is sufficient background which the general reader must understand before knowing the details of your work. It is usual to state that “the reader who knows this background can skip this section” while writing this section.

  • Past/related work: It is common to have this as a separate section, explaining why what you have done is something novel. Here, you must try to think of dimensions of comparison of your work with other work. For instance, you may compare in terms of functionality, in terms of performance, and/or in terms of approach. Even within these, you may have multiple lines of comparison — functionality-1, functionality-2, metric-1, metric-2, etc.

    Although not mandatory, it is good presentation style to give the above comparison in terms of a table; where the rows are the various dimensions of comparison and the columns are various pieces of related work, with your own work being the first/last column. See the related work section of my PhD thesis for an example of such a table :-).

    While in general you try to play up your work with respect to others, it is also good to identify points where your solution is not so good compared to others. If you state these explicitly, the reader will feel better about them, than if you do not state and the reader figures out the flaws in your work anyway :-).

    Another point is with respect to the placement of related work. One possibility is to place it in the beginning of the report (after intro/background). Another is to place it in the end of the report (just before conclusions). This is a matter of judgment, and depends on the following aspect of your work. If there are lots of past work related very closely to your work, then it makes sense to state upfront as to what the difference in your approach is. On the other hand, if your work is substantially different from past work, then it is better to put the related work at the end. While this conveys a stronger message, it has the risk of the reader wondering all through the report as to how your work is different from some other specific related work.

  • Technical sections: The main body of the report may be divided into multiple sections as the case may be. You may have different sections which delve into different aspects of the problem. The organization of the report here is problem specific. You may also have a separate section for statement of design methodology, or experimental methodology, or proving some lemmas in a theoretical paper.

    The technical section is the most work-specific, and hence is the least described here. However, it makes sense to mention the following main points:

    • Outlines/flow: For sections which may be huge, with many subsections, it is appropriate to have a rough outline of the section at the beginning of that section. Make sure that the flow is maintained as the reader goes from one section to another. There should be no abrupt jumps in ideas.
    • Use of figures: The cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words” is appropriate here. Spend time thinking about pictures. Wherever necessary, explain all aspects of a figure (ideally, this should be easy), and do not leave the reader wondering as to what the connection between the figure and the text is.
    • Terminology: Define each term/symbol before you use it, or right after its first use. Stick to a common terminology throughout the report.
  • Results: This is part of the set of technical sections, and is usually a separate section for experimental/design papers. You have to answer the following questions in this section:

    • What aspects of your system or algorithm are you trying to evaluate? That is, what are the questions you will seek to answer through the evaluations?
    • Why are you trying to evaluate the above aspects?
    • What are the cases of comparison? If you have proposed an algorithm or a design, what do you compare it with?
    • What are the performance metrics? Why?
    • What are the parameters under study?
    • What is the experimental setup? Explain the choice of every parameter value (range) carefully.
    • What are the results?
    • Finally, why do the results look the way they do?

    The results are usually presented as tables and graphs. In explaining tables and graphs, you have to explain them as completely as possible. Identify trends in the data. Does the data prove what you want to establish? In what cases are the results explainable, and in what cases unexplainable if any?

    While describing a table, you have to describe every row/column. And similarly while describing a graph, you have to describe the x/y axes. If necessary, you have to consider the use of log-axes.

    If you are presenting a lot of results, it may be useful to summarize the main take-away points from all the data in a separate sub-section at the end (or sometimes even at the beginning) of the results section.

  • Future work: This section in some cases is combined along with the “conclusions” section. Here you state aspects of the problem you have not considered and possibilities for further extensions.

  • Conclusions: Readers usually read the title, abstract, introduction, and conclusions. In that sense, this section is quite important. You have to crisply state the main take-away points from your work. How has the reader become smarter, or how has the world become a better place because of your work?


No report is perfect, and definitely not on the first version. Well written reports are those which have gone through multiple rounds of refinement. This refinement may be through self-reading and critical analysis, or more effectively through peer-feedback (or feedback from advisor/instructor).

Here are some things to remember:

  • Start early, don’t wait for the completion of your work in its entirety before starting to write.
  • Each round of feedback takes about a week at least. And hence it is good to have a rough version at least a month in advance. Given that you may have run/rerun experiments/simulations (for design projects) after the first round of feedback — for a good quality report, it is good to have a rough version at least 2 months in advance.
  • Feedback should go through the following stages ideally: (a) you read it yourself fully once and revise it, (b) have your peers review it and give constructive feedback, and then (c) have your advisor/instructor read it.

Feedback: evaluating someone else’s report

Evaluation of a report you yourself have written can give benefits, but it usually is limited. Even in a group project, it is not good enough to have one person write the report and the other person read it. This is because all the group members usually know what the project is about, and hence cannot critique the paper from outside.

It is best to take feedback from your peer (and of course return favours!). The feedback procedure is quite simple. The one reading has to critically, and methodically see if each of the aspects mentioned above in the “structure of the report” are covered. It may even help to have a check-list, although with experience this becomes unnecessary.

  • Check if the title/abstract make sense, are effective/eye-catching.
  • Are all the relevant questions answered in the introduction?
  • Is the overall structure of the rest of the sections meaningful?
  • Is the difference from related/past work crisp and meaningful?
  • Are the technical sections understandable? Are the figures/tables explained properly? Is the terminology clear? Are the symbols used defined appropriately?
  • Are the results explained properly? Are the conclusions drawn from the graphs/tables sound? Or are there technical holes/flaws? Do the results show how the work presented is better/worse that the other cases of comparison?

When I give feedback on a peer’s report or a student’s report, I usually take a print-out and mark-up at various points in the paper. You may follow a similar procedure, or something suited to you. Be as critical as possible, but with the view that your peer has to improve his/her work, not with the view of putting him/her down. Your comments have to be impersonal. Likewise, while taking feedback from a peer, take the comments on their technical merit.

Recommended strategy for producing a high-quality report

Based on the above, I recommend the following strategy for students who want to produce a high-quality report, which would then have a high potential for being turned into a publication:

  • Think through the outline of the report even as you are working on the details of the problem. Such thinking will also lend focus to your work and you will end up optimizing the returns on the time invested.
  • Two months before the actual deadline, you have to have at least a paragraph-level outline of the report, with all details worked out.
  • After one round of critical analysis by yourselves (or by your group), have another student or another group review it, perhaps in exchange for you reviewing their work. Have them check your flow of ideas. While it may be good to get someone working in the same area, for much of the feedback, this may not really be necessary.
  • Now you are probably about 6-7 weeks from the deadline. At this point, have your advisor/instructor give feedback on the paragraph-level outline. Getting this early is important since, based on this, you may have to reorganize your report, rework your theorems, or rerun your experiments/simulations.
  • Have a pre-final version of the report ready 2 weeks before the deadline. Again, go through one round of self/peer-feedback, and then advisor/instructor feedback.
  • With these 3-4 rounds of revision and critical analysis, the quality of your report is bound to improve. And since many of the student theses are of good quality, quality of writing dramatically improves chances of publication.

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How to Prepare for a College Exam

College students are a diverse bunch. Some are noted for their devotion to academia but others (the larger half), call to mind images of wild fraternity parties, baseball caps, skipped classes and fleece pants. These two groups of students, however dissimilar, have one common challenge ahead of them—college exams.

The truth is that even in your last year of college, the announcement of a test, exam, final, or quiz (the most jarring of all), is disconcerting for slackers and committed students alike. If a test is looming in your future, whether it is two weeks or two hours before, you can take control of the outcome by using the right study strategies. Throughout my own college career I have tackled exams using every tactic in the book—from taking the exam cold turkey (not the most successful approach), to pulling an all nighter and even sometimes, studying for weeks in advance.

Whether you are an A type student (the punctual kind who writes everything down in a little black planner, never misses an exam, and showers on test day) or a B type student (the antithesis of A who rarely graces lectures and doesn’t carry a little black planner) these study tips can help you prepare for even the most loathsome of college exams by beginning on the first day of class.

Exam preparation begins on the first day of class

This is one of the most important pieces of information for a college freshman to understand. On most college level exams everything mentioned in class is fair game. It’s not uncommon for a question like—what’s your professors favorite tie?—to appear as an extra credit question on an exam. Every class that you attend, assignment you complete, and contribution that you make in lecture will help prepare you for any questions that may appear on an exam in the future. Throughout the semester you are adding to your base of knowledge in a variety of subjects. When answering an essay question, information that you may have considered irrelevant can be used to support your thesis and to demonstrate that you have been involved in the class. The more involved you are in lectures the less information you will have to cram the day before the exam.

What topics does your professor appear most enthusiastic about?

All professors have a favorite topic. Not surprisingly, this topic usually makes up a significant portion of any exam that your instructor administers. I would suggest keeping a list of the topics that your professor spends an excessive amount of time exploring. This will help you remember the most important highlights of the class when the time comes to prepare for an exam.

Hold on to your syllabus

Too many times when preparing for an exam I discovered that I had lost my course syllabus—big mistake. This is arguably one of the most important sheets of paper that your instructor will give you. A syllabus will help you organize the information as you take it in and give you an idea about what topics will be emphasized on the exam. When it comes to preparing for the test, your syllabus will create a study guide for you. As the class progresses, add a few notes to your syllabus. Circle books, topics, and themes which are likely to appear on an exam.

Participate in class

Not only does participation help you get closely acquainted with course material, but it also shows the professor that you are interested in his class. In college, it can seem as though professors don’t even notice when you show up for class. Don’t let them fool you, they notice, and your test grade usually reflects this. Any teacher that doesn’t use a blind grading system, though he may not acknowledge it, is influenced by personal bias. By participating in class you can ensure that your involvement and commitment to the course is recognized.

Keep copies of quizzes, essay questions, papers etc.

I have found that most papers handed out during class come in handy when preparing for an exam. Storing such handouts in a folder is another step that will help you develop and efficient study routine. Additionally, quizzes typically test your knowledge of a topic that the professor really thinks you need to know. Whatever the topic, if it’s significant enough to appear on a quiz alone, it will most certainly appear on your exam.